Paul Eisen

Paul Eisen

Saturday, 1 July 2006

The Very Jewish....Mr David Ben-Gurion

The Very Jewish.…Mr. David Ben-Gurion
July 2006

Dear Razanne

I’m delighted that you’re thinking of writing another dramatic piece about David Ben-Gurion. You portrayed him so beautifully in your play: How Palestine Became Israel and it’s interesting that both of us, without any prior consultation, clearly sense this man and his meaning represent a crucial element in the story.

The young Ben-Gurion
As I think you know, in my view, the most important thing about Ben-Gurion was stated in my review of your play:

"...having abandoned his Jewish god and now worshipping a new deity - a god of Socialism, collectivism and Zionism, Ben-Gurion is a man who 'knows'. He 'knows' what is best for the workers of the world, he 'knows' what is best for the Jews of Europe and he certainly 'knows' what is best for the Palestinians of Palestine."

Add to this a little snippet I found which described B-G as

“…a secular Jewish nationalist who combined Jewish Messianic visions with socialist ideals”

So I suggest that rather than look again at Ben-Gurion the great ethnic cleanser (you've already done that admirably) look at Ben-Gurion the Jew. Look at Ben-Gurion the messianic Jew. Look at Ben-Gurion the revolutionary Jew. Look at Ben-Gurion the Jew who ‘knows’ what's best for everyone.

Look at where Ben-Gurion came from - Plonsk in Poland/Russia. Look at the social conditions and the history of the Jews in the Russian empire - suffering certainly, but also look at their traditional disdain and contempt for the peasantry. By all means look at persecution and pogroms, but also look at the exploitation of the peasantry by Jews as bailiffs, middle-men, tax farmers and tavern-keepers.

There's a story that I much like. A drunken priest habitually drinks in a tavern owned by a Jewish tavern-keeper. One Sunday the local priest, deep into his cups, cannot pay his bill. What to do? He offers to leave the keys of the church with the tavern-keeper as surety. A strange offer perhaps but the tavern-keeper agrees. So, sure enough, the following Sunday when the locals come to their church for Mass they find the door locked.

The priest says to them,

“The Jew, the Jew! The Jew has the keys and will not let you in.” So, sure enough, the enraged peasants go round to the Jew, give him a severe beating and a mini-pogrom takes place.

Now who here is to blame? The peasants, certainly for their violence. The priest, absolutely for his drunken irresponsibility and for blaming the Jew and inciting the crowd. But what about the Jewish tavern-keeper, is he not also responsible for his contempt for the peasantry, their faith and their priest which leads him to so readily accept the church keys as surety? But, you say, the priest offered the keys. Yes, but did the Jew have to accept them? And in what spirit did he do so?

But, I hear you and many others say, that Jews only became bailiffs, middle-men, tax-farmers, tavern-owners etc., etc. because they were not allowed to own land. Maybe, but were the Jews, unable themselves to own land, reluctant to join with those who did, in exploiting those who did not? Does our Jewish tavern-keeper pace up and down his tavern devising ways and means by which he could cease his sober exploitation of a drunken peasantry and join his fellow Russians in honest toil? And anyway, why were Jews so valued by oppressors as agents of the oppression? Was it not because, with that age-old, and now inbuilt contempt for the host population, Jews were eminently suitable for such a task?

Study the Bolshevik revolution and read Mark Weber on its Jewish component
.. Note the preponderance of Jews in the Bolshevik high command. Note particularly the Cheka. They say that if one were unfortunate enough to find oneself in some Bolshevik torture-cell the likelihood was that one would be first welcomed and then shot by a Jewish interrogator. Some even say that this revolution was a coup by Jews against the Russian people. I don't know about that, but I can certainly see how persecuted Jews may have harbored plenty of hatred against the Czar and also his people. And I can also see how, like the bailiffs, middle-men, tax-farmers and tavern-keepers, the Jews were temperamentally suited to oppress their Russian neighbors.

Take a look at Trotsky - a man who to his dying day denied that his Jewishness had anything to do with his revolutionary spirit. Look at this picture. It's of the 18 year old Lev Bronstein, soon to become Leon Trotsky. I've spent a lot of time looking at that photo. He looks like the young me, or like so many of my Jewish friends and class-mates, and I wonder what was going through his head at the time? What were his feelings towards his non-Jewish class-mates? I know what mine were. 

And whilst you’re at it, take a look at this picture of Yakov Sverdlov (Solomon) Sverdlov was quite a big wheel in the revolution and the man who co-signed the death warrant of the Czar and his family. (The execution squad was led by another Jew, one Yakov Yurovksy). Were Sverdlov and Yurovsky thinking as Jews, as revolutionaries, neither or both?

Take a look at the countless other revolutionary Jews who permeate our recent history and who have had such an energising/disruptive effect on our lives– Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Franz Boas, Paul Wolfowitz et al, “Alex Portnoy”, Woody Allen, Bob Dylan - the list is endless. Read the work of E. Michael Jones – a Catholic writer who has thought and written extensively about revolutionary Jews. And do study the work of Kevin MacDonald – the California Social Studies Professor who has written so extensively about Jewish collective strategies.

All these writers are routinely labeled anti-Semites and perhaps they are. It really all depends on what you mean by the term. If you mean that they hate all Jews simply because they are Jews, then the idea is absurd. But if you mean that they have serious criticisms to make of how so many Jews or their representatives are collectively behaving, or even that we have questions to ask about the nature of an empowered Jewish identity and its effects – then that is another matter altogether. But Razanne, don’t take my word for anything, just read.

And whilst you’re at it, why not take a close look at those anti-Zionist Marxist Jews who "know" that Palestine should be a secular, democratic state? Sometimes I think that the only difference between Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish activists is that the Zionist Jews want to turn Palestine into a Jewish state for Jews, whilst the anti-Zionist Jews want to turn Palestine into a secular, democratic state for everyone - but on every street corner will be a Jewish commissar who will "know" what's best for everyone.

So back to our good friend: David Ben-Gurion. Given his history, his background and his ideology what might his feelings have been towards the Palestinian peasantry who so inconveniently occupied the land of his forefathers? Would he have respected them? Would he have understood their connection to their land and to their culture? Or would he have ‘known’ far better than they, what was best for them? And, when they proved incapable of truly understanding what that was, what might have been his response?

"We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population."
           (David Ben-Gurion, May 1948. From Ben-Gurion, a Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar)

‘Razanne’ is Razanne Carmey: Palestinian playwright extraordinaire who is more than partly responsible for pretty much every London DY commemoration since the year 2001.

Razanne’s latest play “How Palestine Became Israel” was performed at London’s Bloomsbury Theatre on April 9/10 2006 as part of our 2006 Deir Yassin Day commemorations.

Paul Eisen – July 2006