Palestine Land Society: The Last of the Semites

Tony Gosling tony at
Tue Aug 9 01:10:21 BST 2016

About Palestine Land Society
Palestine Land Society is an independent 
non-profit scholarly society dedicated towards 
research and information-gathering on Palestine, 
the land and its people. The organization does this by:
    * Documenting Palestine’s history, geography, culture, and society;
    * Reviewing legal, economic, socio-political and other related issues;
    * Disseminating information by publishing 
books, maps, and academic papers on the subject;
    * Participating in all fora of events, 
conferences, and meetings that are concerned with the subject.
Founder and President:
    * Dr. Salman Abu Sitta
Board of Trustees:
    * Dr. Shukri Arraf – Galilee
    * Mr. Bilal Al Hassan – Paris
    * Dr. Hisham Khatib – Amman
    * Prof. Fadle Naqib – Canada
    * Prof. Issam Naqib – Oxford
    * Dr. Marwan Sayeh – Amman
    * Mr. Samer Younis – London
    * Prof. Antoine Zahlan – London
    * Dr. Nabil Qaddumi – Kuwait

The Last of the Semites
Speech of Joseph A. Massad, at the second 
Palestine Solidarity Conference, Stuttgart, Germany, May 10-12, 2013


Joseph Massad is Associate Professor of Modern 
Arab Politics and Intellectual History in the 
Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian and 
African Studies at Columbia University, New York. 
He is the author of "The Persistence of the 
Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians".

Jewish opponents of Zionism understood the 
movement since its early age as one that shared 
the precepts of anti-Semitism in its diagnosis of 
what gentile Europeans called the “Jewish 
Question”. What galled anti-Zionist Jews the 
most, however, was that Zionism also shared the 
“solution” to the Jewish Question that 
anti-Semites had always advocated, namely the expulsion of Jews from Europe.

It was the Protestant Reformation with its 
revival of the Hebrew Bible that would link the 
modern Jews of Europe to the ancient Hebrews of 
Palestine, a link that the philologists of the 
eighteenth century would solidify through their 
discovery of the family of “Semitic” languages, 
including Hebrew and Arabic. Whereas Millenarian 
Protestants insisted that contemporary Jews, as 
descendants of the ancient Hebrews, must leave 
Europe to Palestine to expedite the second coming 
of Christ, philological discoveries led to the 
labeling of contemporary Jews as “Semites”. The 
leap that the biological sciences of race and 
heredity would make in the nineteenth century of 
considering contemporary European Jews racial 
descendants of the ancient Hebrews would, as a result, not be a giant one.

Basing themselves on the connections made by 
anti-Jewish Protestant Millenarians, secular 
European figures who saw the political potential 
of “restoring” Jews to Palestine abounded in the 
nineteenth century. Less interested in expediting 
the second coming of Christ as were the 
Millenarians, these secular politicians, from 
Napoleon Bonaparte to British foreign secretary 
Lord Palmerston (1785-1865) to Ernest Laharanne, 
the private secretary of Napoleon III in the 
1860s, sought to expel the Jews of Europe to 
Palestine in order to set them up as agents of 
European imperialism in Asia. Their call would be 
espoused by many “anti-Semite”, a new label 
chosen by European anti-Jewish racists after its 
invention in 1879 by a minor Viennese journalist 
by the name of Wilhelm Marr, who issued a 
political program titled The Victory of Judaism 
over Germanism. Marr was careful to decouple 
anti-Semitism from the history of Christian 
hatred of Jews on the basis of religion, 
emphasizing, in line with Semitic philology and 
racial theories of the nineteenth century, that 
the distinction to be made between Jews and Aryans was strictly racial.

Assimilating Jews into European culture

Scientific anti-Semitism insisted that the Jews 
were different from Christian Europeans. Indeed 
that the Jews were not European at all and that 
their very presence in Europe is what causes 
anti-Semitism. The reason why Jews caused so many 
problems for European Christians had to do with 
their alleged rootlessness, that they lacked a 
country, and hence countrybased loyalty. In the 
Romantic age of European nationalisms, 
anti-Semites argued that Jews did not fit in the 
new national configurations, and disrupted 
national and racial purity essential to most 
European nationalisms. This is why if the Jews 
remained in Europe, the anti-Semites argued, they 
could only cause hostility among Christian 
Europeans. The only solution was for the Jews to 
exit from Europe and have their own country. 
Needless to say, religious and secular Jews 
opposed this horrific anti-Semitic line of 
thinking. Orthodox and Reform Jews, Socialist and 
Communist Jews, cosmopolitan and Yiddishkeit 
cultural Jews, all agreed that this was a 
dangerous ideology of hostility that sought the 
expulsion of Jews from their European homelands.

The Jewish Haskala, or Enlightenment, which 
emerged also in the nineteenth century, sought to 
assimilate Jews into European secular gentile 
culture and have them shed their Jewish culture. 
It was the Haskala that sought to break the 
hegemony of Orthodox Jewish rabbis on the 
“Ostjuden” of the East European shtetl and to 
shed what it perceived as a “medieval” Jewish 
culture in favor of the modern secular culture of 
European Christians. Reform Judaism, as a 
Christianand Protestant-like variant of Judaism, 
would emerge from the bosom of the Haskala. This 
assimilationist program, however, sought to 
integrate Jews in European modernity, not to 
expel them outside Europe’s geography.

When Zionism started a decade and a half after 
Marr’s anti-Semitic program was published, it 
would espouse all these anti-Speech of Joseph A. 
Massad at the second Palestine Solidarity 
Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, 10th-12th May 
2013 The Last of the Semites Jewish ideas, 
including scientific anti-Semitism as valid. For 
Zionism, Jews were “Semites”, who were 
descendants of the ancient Hebrews. In his 
foundational pamphlet Der Judenstaat, Herzl 
explained that it was Jews, not their Christian 
enemies, who “cause” anti-Semitism and that 
“where it does not exist, [anti-Semitism] is 
carried by Jews in the course of their 
migrations”, indeed that “the unfortunate Jews 
are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into 
England; they have already introduced it into 
America;” that Jews were a “nation” that should 
leave Europe to restore their “nationhood” in 
Palestine or Argentina; that Jews must emulate 
European Christians culturally and abandon their 
living languages and traditions in favor of 
modern European languages or a restored ancient 
national language. Herzl preferred that all Jews 
adopt German, while the East European Zionists 
wanted Hebrew. Zionists after Herzl even agreed 
and affirmed that Jews were separate racially 
from Aryans. As for Yiddish, the living language 
of most European Jews, all Zionists agreed that it should be abandoned.

The majority of Jews continued to resist Zionism 
and understood its precepts as those of 
anti-Semitism and as a continuation of the 
Haskala quest to shed Jewish culture and 
assimilate Jews into European secular gentile 
culture, except that Zionism sought the latter 
not inside Europe but at a geographical remove 
following the expulsion of Jews from Europe. The 
Bund, or the General Jewish Labor Union in 
Lithuania, Poland, and Russia, which was founded 
in Vilna in early October 1897, a few weeks after 
the convening of the first Zionist Congress in 
Basle in late August 1897, would become Zionism’s 
fiercest enemy. The Bund joined the existing 
anti-Zionist Jewish coalition of Orthodox and 
Reform rabbis who had combined forces a few 
months earlier to prevent Herzl from convening 
the first Zionist Congress in Munich, which 
forced him to move it to Basle. Jewish 
anti-Zionism across Europe and in the United 
States had the support of the majority of Jews 
who continued to view Zionism as an anti-Jewish movement well into the 1940s.

Anti-semitic chain of pro-zionist enthusiasts

Realizing that its plan for the future of 
European Jews was in line with those of 
anti-Semites, Herzl strategized early on an 
alliance with the latter. He declared in Der 
Judenstaat that: “The Governments of all 
countries scourged by Anti-Semitism will be 
keenly interested in assisting us to obtain [the] 
sovereignty we want”. He added that “not only 
poor Jews” would contribute to an immigration 
fund for European Jews, “but also Christians who 
wanted to get rid of them”. Herzl 
unapologetically confided in his Diaries that: 
“The anti-Semites will become our most dependable 
friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies”. 
Thus when Herzl began to meet in 1903 with 
infamous anti-Semites like the Russian minister 
of the interior Vyacheslav von Plehve who oversaw 
anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia, it was an alliance 
that he sought by design. That it would be the 
anti-Semitic Lord Balfour, who as Prime Minister 
of Britain in 1905 oversaw his government’s 
Aliens Act, which prevented East European Jews 
fleeing Russian pogroms from entering Britain in 
order, as he put it, to save the country from the 
“undoubted evils” of “an immigration which was 
largely Jewish”, was hardy coincidental. 
Balfour’s infamous Declaration of 1917 to create 
in Palestine a “national home” for the “Jewish 
people”, was designed, among other things, to 
curb Jewish support for the Russian Revolution 
and to stem the tide of further unwanted Jewish 
immigrants into Britain. The Nazis would not be 
an exception in this anti-Semitic chain of 
pro-Zionist enthusiasts. Indeed, the Zionists 
would strike a deal with the Nazis very early in 
their history. It was in 1933 that the infamous 
Transfer (Ha’Avara) Agreement was signed between 
the Zionists and the Nazi government to 
facilitate the transfer of German Jews and their 
property to Palestine and which broke the 
international Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany 
started by American Jews. It was in this spirit 
that Nazi envoys were dispatched to Palestine to 
report on the successes of Jewish colonization of 
the country. Adolf Eichmann returned from his 
1937 trip to Palestine full of fantastic stories 
about the achievements of the racially-separatist 
Ashkenazi kibbutzes, one of which he visited on 
Mount Carmel as a guest of the Zionists.

Despite the overwhelming opposition of most 
German Jews, it was the Zionist Federation of 
Germany that was the only Jewish group that 
supported the Nuremberg Laws of 1935, as they 
agreed with the Nazis that Jews and Aryans were 
separate and separable races. This was not a 
tactical support but one based on ideological 
similitude. The Nazis’ Final Solution initially 
meant the expulsion of Germany’s Jews to 
Madagascar. It is this shared goal of expelling 
Jews from Europe as a separate unassimilable race 
that created the affinity between Nazis and Zionists all along.

While the majority of Jews continued to resist 
the anti-Semitic basis of Zionism and its 
alliances with anti-Semites, the Nazi genocide 
not only killed ninety percent of European Jews 
but in the process also killed the majority of 
Jewish enemies of Zionism who died precisely 
because they refused to heed the Zionist call of 
abandoning their countries and homes.

After the War, the horror at the Jewish holocaust 
did not stop European countries from supporting 
the anti-Semitic program of Zionism. On the 
contrary, these countries shared with the Nazis a 
predilection for Zionism. They only opposed 
Nazism’s genocidal program. European countries, 
along with the United States, refused to take in 
hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors of the 
holocaust. In fact, these countries voted against 
a UN resolution introduced by the Arab states in 
1947 calling on them to take in the Jewish 
survivors, yet these same countries would be the 
ones who would support the United Nations 
Partition Plan of November 1947 to create a 
Jewish State in Palestine to which these unwanted 
Jewish refugees could be expelled.

The pro-zionist policies of the Nazis

The United States and European countries, 
including Germany, would continue the pro-Zionist 
policies of the Nazis. Post-War West German 
governments who presented themselves as opening a 
new page in their relationship with Jews in 
reality did no such thing. Since the 
establishment of the country after WWII, every 
West German government (and every German 
government since unification in1990) has 
continued the pro-Zionist Nazi policies unabated. 
There was never a break with Nazi pro-Zionism. 
The only break was with the genocidal and racial 
hatred of Jews that Nazism consecrated, but not 
with the desire to see Jews set up in a country 
in Asia, away from Europe. Indeed, the Germans 
would explain that much of the money they were 
sending to Israel was to help offset the costs of 
resettling European Jewish refugees in the country.

After World War II, a new consensus emerged in 
the United States and Europe that Jews had to be 
integrated posthumously into white Europeanness, 
and that the horror of the Jewish holocaust was 
essentially a horror at the murder of white 
Europeans. Since the 1960s, Hollywood films about 
the holocaust began to depict Jewish victims of 
Nazism as white Christian-looking, middle class, 
educated, and talented people not unlike 
contemporary European and American Christians who 
should and would identify with them. Presumably 
if the films were to depict the poor religious 
Jews of Eastern Europe (and most East European 
Jews who were killed by the Nazis were poor and 
many were religious), contemporary white 
Christians would not find commonality with them. 
Hence, the post-holocaust European Christian 
horror at the genocide of European Jews was not 
based on the horror of slaughtering people in the 
millions who were different from European 
Christians, but rather a horror at the murder of 
millions of people who were the same as European 
Christians. This explains why in a country like 
the United States, which had nothing to do with 
the slaughter of European Jews, there exists 
upwards of forty holocaust memorials and a major 
museum for the murdered Jews of Europe, but not 
one for the holocaust of Native Americans or 
African Americans for which the United States is responsible.

Aimé Césaire understood this process very well. 
In his famous speech on colonialism, he affirmed 
that the retrospective view of European 
Christians about Nazism is that It is barbarism, 
but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism 
that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is 
Nazism, yes, but that before [Europeans] were its 
victims, they were its accomplices; and they 
tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on 
them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to 
it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had 
been applied only to non-European peoples; that 
they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are 
responsible for it, and that before engulfing the 
whole of Western, Christian civilization in its 
reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.

That for Césaire the Nazi wars and holocaust were 
European colonialism turned inwards is true 
enough. But since the rehabilitation of Nazism’s 
victims as white people, Europe and its American 
accomplice would continue their Nazi policy of 
visiting horrors on non-white people around the 
world, on Korea, on Vietnam and Indochina, on 
Algeria, on Indonesia, on Central and South 
America, on Central and Southern Africa, on 
Palestine, on Iran, and on Iraq and Afghanistan. 
The rehabilitation of European Jews after WWII 
was a crucial part of US Cold War propaganda. As 
American social scientists and ideologues 
developed the theory of “totalitarianism”, which 
posited Soviet Communism and Nazism as 
essentially the same type of regime, European 
Jews, as victims of one totalitarian regime, 
became part of the atrocity exhibition that 
American and West European propaganda claimed was 
like the atrocities that the Soviet regime was 
allegedly committing in the preand post-War 
periods. That Israel would jump on the bandwagon 
by accusing the Soviets of anti-Semitism for 
their refusal to allow Soviet Jewish citizens to 
self-expel and leave to Israel was part of the propaganda.

Commitment to white supremacy

It was thus that the European and US commitment 
to white supremacy was preserved, except that it 
now included Jews as part of “white” people, and 
what came to be called “Judeo-Christian” 
civilization. European and American policies 
after World War II, which continued to be 
inspired and dictated by racism against Native 
Americans, Africans, Asians, Arabs, and Muslims, 
and continued to support Zionism’s anti-Semitic 
program of assimilating Jews into whiteness in a 
colonial settler state away from Europe, were a 
direct continuation of anti-Semitic policies 
prevalent before the War. It was just that much 
of the anti-Semitic racialist venom would now be 
directed at Arabs and Muslims (both, those who 
are immigrants and citizens in Europe and the 
United States and those who live in Asia and 
Africa) while the erstwhile anti-Semitic support 
for Zionism would continue unhindered.

West Germany’s alliance with Zionism and Israel 
after WWII, of supplying Israel with huge 
economic aid in the 1950s and of economic and 
military aid since the early 1960s, including 
tanks, which it used to kill Palestinians and 
other Arabs, is a continuation of the alliance 
that the Nazi government concluded with the 
Zionists in the 1930s. In the 1960s West Germany 
even provided military training to Israeli 
soldiers and since the 1970s has provided Israel 
with nuclear-ready German-made submarines with 
which Israel hopes to kill more Arabs and 
Muslims. Israel has in recent years armed the 
most recent German-supplied submarines with 
nuclear tipped cruise missiles, a fact that is 
well known to the current German government. 
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Der 
SPIEGEL in 2012 that Germans should be “proud” 
that they have secured the existence of the state 
of Israel “for many years”. Berlin financed 
one-third of the cost of the submarines, around 
€135 million ($168 million) per submarine, and 
has allowed Israel to defer its payment until 
2015. That this makes Germany an accomplice in 
the dispossession of the Palestinians is of no 
more concern to current German governments than 
it was in the 1960s to West German Chancellor 
Konrad Adenauer who affirmed that “the Federal 
Republic has neither the right nor the 
responsibility to take a position on the Palestinian refugees”.

This is to be added to the massive billions that 
Germany has paid to the Israeli government as 
compensation for the holocaust, as if Israel and 
Zionism were the victims of Nazism, when in 
reality it was anti-Zionist Jews who were killed 
by the Nazis. The current German government does 
not care about the fact that even those German 
Jews who fled the Nazis and ended up in Palestine 
hated Zionism and its project and were hated in 
turn by Zionist colonists in Palestine. As German 
refugees in 1930s and 1940s Palestine refused to 
learn Hebrew and published half a dozen German 
newspapers in the country, they were attacked by 
the Hebrew press, including by Ha‘Aretz, which 
called for the closure of their newspapers in 
1939 and again in 1941. Zionist colonists 
attacked a German-owned café in Tel Aviv because 
its Jewish owners refused to speak Hebrew, and 
the Tel Aviv municipality threatened in June 1944 
some of its German Jewish residents for holding 
in their home on 21 Allenby street “parties and 
balls entirely in the German language, including 
programs that are foreign to the spirit of our 
city” and that this would “not be tolerated in 
Tel Aviv”. German Jews, or Yekkes as they were 
known in the Yishuv, would even organize a 
celebration of the Kaiser’s birthday in 1941 (for 
these and more details about German Jewish 
refugees in Palestine, read Tom Segev’s book The Seventh Million).

Add to that Germany’s support for Israeli 
policies against Palestinians at the United 
Nations, and the picture becomes complete. Even 
the new holocaust memorial built in Berlin that 
opened in 2005 maintains Nazi racial apartheid, 
as this “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” 
is only for Jewish victims of the Nazis who must 
still today be set apart, as Hitler mandated, 
from the other millions of non-Jews who also fell 
victim to Nazism. That a subsidiary of the German 
company Degussa, which collaborated with the 
Nazis and which produced the Zyklon B gas that 
was used to kill people in the gas chambers, was 
contracted to build the memorial was anything but 
surprising, as it simply confirms that those who 
killed Jews in Germany in the late 1930s and in 
the 1940s now regret what they had done because 
they now understand Jews to be white Europeans 
who must be commemorated and who should not have 
been killed in the first place on account of 
their whiteness. The German policy of abetting 
the killing of Arabs by Israel, however, is 
hardly unrelated to this commitment to 
anti-Semitism, which continues through the 
predominant contemporary anti-Muslim German 
racism that targets Muslim immigrants.

Euro-American anti-Jewish tradition

The Jewish holocaust killed off the majority of 
Jews who fought and struggled against European 
anti-Semitism, including Zionism. With their 
death, the only remaining “Semites” who are 
fighting against Zionism and its anti-Semitism 
today are the Palestinian people. Whereas Israel 
insists that European Jews do not belong in 
Europe and must come to Palestine, the 
Palestinians have always insisted that the 
homelands of European Jews were their European 
countries and not Palestine, and that Zionist 
colonialism springs from its very anti-Semitism. 
Whereas Zionism insists that Jews are a race 
separate from European Christians, the 
Palestinians insist that European Jews are 
nothing if not European and have nothing to do 
with Palestine, its people, or its culture. What 
Israel and its American and European allies have 
sought to do in the last six and a half decades 
is to convince Palestinians that they too must 
become anti-Semites and believe as the Nazis, 
Israel, and its Western anti-Semitic allies do, 
that Jews are a race that is different from 
European races, that Palestine is their country, 
and that Israel speaks for all Jews. That the two 
largest American pro-Israel voting blocks today 
are Millenarian Protestants and secular 
imperialists continues the very same 
Euro-American anti-Jewish tradition that extends 
back to the Protestant Reformation and nineteenth 
century imperialism. But the Palestinians have 
remained unconvinced and steadfast in their resistance to anti-Semitism.

Israel and its anti-Semitic allies affirm that 
Israel is “the Jewish people”, that its policies 
are “Jewish” policies, that its achievements are 
“Jewish” achievements, that its crimes are 
“Jewish” crimes, and that therefore anyone who 
dares to criticize Israel is criticizing Jews and 
must be an anti-Semite. The Palestinian people 
have mounted a major struggle against this 
anti-Semitic incitement. They continue to affirm 
instead that the Israeli government does not 
speak for all Jews, that it does not represent 
all Jews, and that its colonial crimes against 
the Palestinian people are its own crimes and not 
the crimes of “the Jewish people”, and that 
therefore it must be criticized, condemned, and 
prosecuted for its ongoing war crimes against the 
Palestinian people. This is not a new Palestinian 
position, but one that was adopted since the turn 
of the twentieth century and continued throughout 
the pre-WWII Palestinian struggle against 
Zionism. Yasser Arafat’s speech at the United 
Nations in 1974 stressed all these points 
vehemently: Just as colonialism heedlessly used 
the wretched, the poor, the exploited as mere 
inert matter with which to build and to carry out 
settler colonialism, so too were destitute, 
oppressed European Jews employed on behalf of 
world imperialism and of the Zionist leadership. 
European Jews were transformed into the 
instruments of aggression; they became the 
elements of settler colonialism intimately allied 
to racial discrimination
 Zionist theology was 
utilized against our Palestinian people: the 
purpose was not only the establishment of 
Western-style settler colonialism but also the 
severing of Jews from their various homelands and 
subsequently their estrangement from their 
nations. Zionism
 is united with antisemitism in 
its retrograde tenets and is, when all is said 
and done, another side of the same base coin. For 
when what is proposed is that adherents of the 
Jewish faith, regardless of their national 
residence, should neither owe allegiance to their 
national residence nor live on equal footing with 
its other, non-Jewish citizens–when that is 
proposed we hear anti-Semitism being proposed. 
When it is proposed that the only solution for 
the Jewish problem is that Jews must alienate 
themselves from communities or nations of which 
they have been a historical part, when it is 
proposed that Jews solve the Jewish problem by 
immigrating to and forcibly settling the land of 
another people–when this occurs, exactly the same 
position is being advocated as the one urged by anti-Semites against Jews.

Israel’s claim that its critics must be 
anti-Semites presupposes that its critics believe 
its claims that it represents “the Jewish 
people”. But it is Israel’s claims that it 
represents and speaks for all Jews that are the 
most anti-Semitic claims of all.

Today, Israel and the Western powers want to 
elevate anti-Semitism to an international 
principle around which they seek to establish 
full consensus. They insist that for there to be 
peace in the Middle East, Palestinians, Arabs, 
and Muslims must become, like the West, 
anti-Semites by espousing Zionism and recognizing 
Israel’s anti-Semitic claims. Except for 
dictatorial Arab regimes and the Palestinian 
Authority and its cronies, on this sixty-fifth 
anniversary of the anti-Semitic conquest of 
Palestine by the Zionists, known to Palestinians 
as the Nakba, the Palestinian people and the few 
surviving anti-Zionist Jews continue to refuse to 
heed this international call and incitement to 
anti-Semitism. They affirm that they are, as the 
last of the Semites, the heirs of the pre-WWII 
Jewish and Palestinian struggles against 
anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial 
manifestation. It is their resistance that stands 
in the way of a complete victory for European 
anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.

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