Raimond Gaita’s speech

Posted on Antony Loewenstein’s blog. I’ll bold or enlarge  to emphasise some of it.

In the hope that your readers attend more justly to what is actually said, I’m pasting in extracts from my talk that you reckon shows ignorance, bigotry and intolerance.

“Neither justice nor realism, in my judgment, require someone who acknowledges the crimes that were part of Israel’s foundation and that continue to this day, to seek its replacement by a bi-national state. The claim that justice requires it, is often in part, but crucial part supported by the claim that Zionism is a colonial settler enterprise that dispossessed, as did other such enterprises, in Australia for example, the indigenous inhabitants of the colonised lands. I fear this will offend many people, but I think it is misleading in the context of the discussion of Israel as Jewish State to call the Palestinian Arabs the indigenous inhabitant of the land. *When, however, you put that way of identifying them together with the idea that Israel is a colonial settler society, then you invite the thought that the Jews stand in much the same relation to the Arab population of Palestine as the white settlers stood to the aboriginal population of Australia, or to the Indian populations of America or Canada, for example. It’s a thought –many people have it − that ignores the complexity of the Jewish relation to Palestine (and indeed of Jewish identity, which is travestied in the claim that it is essentially a racial concept, that became racialist in its Zionist development)* I don’t think any Jew could justifiably say, flatly, that in returning to Palestine she was returning to the land from which she had been exiled in biblical times, though many are tempted to say just that. Nor, however, could a Palestinian Arab justifiably say, flatly, in response to her, “No. You are foreign settlers”. The strong feeling of many Israeli Jews, that living in Israel marks a kind of return, takes nonsensical and sometimes very dangerous, forms. But it is not always nonsense and not always dangerous, not, at any rate, to someone who believes in a two state solution. Insofar as one acknowledges that justice does not require Jews to become mendicants for a place in what was Palestine, insofar as one believes they have a claim to be there − even if one believes it is a claim only to a homeland rather than to a state, or only to be one nation in a bi-national state – then that claim is partly based on a relation to the land which is falsified if Jews are described as the non-indigenous inhabitants. Are they therefore the indigenous inhabitants? To say that would be even more misleading. One should therefore draw the conclusion, I believe, that the concept of ‘an indigenous inhabitant’ hinders rather than helps thinking justly about the conflicting claims of Arabs and Jews to the same territory. *And in this connection it is important to remember something when on reads writers – Jacqueline Rose, for example – who advocate a one state solution and who enlist in their support earlier anti-state Zionists like the theologian and philosopher, Martin Buber, or the founder of Hebrew University Jehuda Magnes or Hannah Arendt. Rightly or wrongly, they did not believe that Jews who came to Mandate Palestine should, morally speaking, have petitioned the Palestinian Arabs for their right to settle there. “*

That is the section of my talk to that caused such great offence.

It is not inconsistent with the acknowledgement, that I readily make, that the Palestinian Arabs were dispossessed of their lands and homes before and after the establishment of the State.

Here are two further extracts from the same talk.

“Sixty yeas after the Holocaust, the Jewish state is pariah amongst nations. There can be no doubt that she has committed crimes against the people she dispossessed when the state was established and that she continues to commit crimes against them. It is, as I remarked earlier, Israeli historians who most compellingly dispelled the illusion that things became seriously morally bad only after the occupation of the west bank and Gaza in 1967.”

“She must lift the siege and do things that show serious intent to allow the Palestinians to develop a state they can accept without humiliation. That means more than putting a halt to settlements. It means dismantling them. Indeed, it means, I believe, putting the settlers on notice that Israel will negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, a date for their departure. Most of all it means fully acknowledging the wrongs Israel did to the Palestinians and that, I believe, entails that she can no longer treat the west bank as something to bargain over. As Gideon Levy has argued in Haaretz, to treat the occupation West Bank as a bargaining chip in negotiations is to be like someone who stole someone property and then, with a gun at her head, sets the conditions under which he will negotiate its return. Only if Israel does this will it be clear that she finally recognises the Palestinian people’s need of a sovereign state in which they can develop the cultural and political institutions that will enable them to flourish as a people. Only then will her demand that Hamas renounce its charter and recognise the legitimacy of a Jewish state have the moral authority it deserves, but currently lacks.”

So there you have it. We shouldn’t talk about indigenous inhabitants of Palestine, because the Jews aren’t indigenous and so this won’t serve Zionist interests. Yet he doesn’t quite entirely commit to this, because Jews aren’t foreign settlers. The Jews who came from Europe are perhaps a little indigenous to Gaita (or not entirely foreign).

He doesn’t seem to realise how extreme his position is. Can you imagine Andrew Bolt saying that the Aborigines shouldn’t be called indigenous, because that will make the history of British colonisation more problematic?


I didn’t get around to noting it, but Sensible Jew, moved to Galus Australis, did eventually comment on the Bnai Brith and Danby thing. I think it was completely unprincipled (they didn’t think of suggesting the charges of anti-Semitism were actually wrong), but they did say that it was tactically unwise for such a thing to be said.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: