From The Gathering Storm Blog

Elliot Jager asks this question a book review of Army of Shadows – Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism, 1917-1948 by Hillel Cohen.

In the book, Hillel Cohen of the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem tells the absorbing story of the Palestinian Arabs who sought accommodation with the Zionist movement. This book answers the question: Where are the Palestinian moderates?

His answer? They’re all dead.

For more than 90 years, Arab radicals have been at war not only with with Zionism, but simultaneously with any Arab voice – Christian, Muslim, Druse or Beduin – advocating moderation and coexistence with the Zionist enterprise. So, where are the moderates?

They are dead – hacked up with axes, riddled with bullets, slaughtered with knives and exploded by bombs. That’s where the Arab moderates are. This book chronicles their story from the start of the British Mandate until the War of Independence.

Cohen explains that the Zionists actually collaborated with the Arabs in the 20s.

Cohen’s research shows that the Jewish Agency and Hagana paid Arab informants, funded pro-Zionist Arab newspapers (though often insufficiently and erratically) and made an effort (often far too little) to support Arabs who were friends of the Jews. The Zionists correctly intuited that the Arabs of Palestine did not mostly define themselves as “Palestinians,” but self-identified by their clan, locale – urban or rural – and as part of the greater Arab or Muslim collective.

The “collaborators,” says Cohen, had various motives: sometimes personal gain, but just as often communal interest. Often they merely wanted to do the ethical or humane thing. the mufti insisted that Palestinian Arabs define their cause in religio-nationalist terms – insisting that only his brand of Palestinian identity was legitimate and that a moderate nationalism which acquiesced in any semblance of Jewish rights to the Land of Israel was treason.

And if you remember, that Mufti was a staunch ally of Hitler and bought into his racist beliefs against the Jews. A marriage made in hell.

The Rejectionists spearheaded a continuum of murderous riots, beginning in the 1920s. Even as they were killing Jews, they were also intimidating any Arab tainted by a Jewish link. Fanatics even opposed connecting Arab villages to the Zionists’ electrical grid. They opposed establishing self-governing institutions for the Arabs of Palestine and participation in municipal elections. They advocated a boycott of Jewish products and vehemently opposed Jews and Arabs working for or with each other.

You think Hamas and Hezbollah’s philosophies are new? They hawk back to the 1920s.

Then, as now, the hard-liners controlled the mosques, which they used to incite against the Jews and against Arabs who did business with Jews. Initially, their fatwas merely warned of beatings for disobedience. With time, they would command the murder of moderates. (Christian Arab clerics issued their own anti-Jewish rulings in their elusive quest to win acceptance as loyal Palestinians.)

“Then, as now, the hard-liners controlled the mosques.” Now why is that not surprising. We know today that mosques are not just places of worship but command and control centers for the advancement of the Islamist agenda. It was the same then and the same now.

In the period covered by the book, hundreds of Palestinian moderates – maybe 1,000 – were murdered. Countless others got the message: Moderation is treason punishable by death.

There was no appeasing the rejectionists. Not even the draconian White Paper, issued just four months before Hitler’s invasion of Poland – a British policy turnabout which dealt a near-fatal blow to the Zionist enterprise – went far enough for the fanatics. No step save the complete eradication of the Zionist enterprise would be tolerated.

There were moderate Palestinian voices.

“I am not a traitor… I am not a Zionist… Our national demands are equivalent, but our means differ. Your method will lead you to destruction and to expulsion. A man has a right to criticize, and criticism should not be obstructed… I cannot recognize Haj Amin al-Husseini as the leader of Palestine because his direction has brought no benefit to the country.”

Those were the sentiments of Muhammad Tawil from Acre. His words went unheeded by the Palestinian Arabs, and he was ultimately abandoned to his own devices by an ungrateful Jewish Agency leadership.

Jagar ends his review with this.

Army of Shadows is an important academic work that is accessible to general readers. It painfully exposes how today’s violent, dysfunctional, pathological polity that is “Palestine” came to be.

It is a story of a misbegotten revolution that consumed its own.

How true. How true.


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