Thursday, August 11, 2005


Bertrand Russell - On Palestinian refugees, and a word by Fromm and Asimov

From the indomitable Jeff Blankfort: For the edification of humanity and now for your distribution and your files, Lord Bertrand Russell said all that needed to be said about the Israel-Palestine conflict in 1970. Thanks to Ed Corrigan for this.

Lord Bertrand Russell addressing an international conference in 1970, wrote the following:

"The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was ‘given’ by a foreign power to another people for the creation of a new state. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With every new conflict their numbers increased. How much longer is the world willing to endure this spectacle of wanton cruelty? It is abundantly clear that the refugees have every right to the homeland from which they were driven, and the denial of this right is at the heart of the continuing conflict. No people anywhere in the world would accept being expelled en masse from their country; how can anyone require the people of Palestine to accept a punishment which nobody else would tolerate? A permanent just settlement of the refugees in their homeland is an essential ingredient of any genuine settlement in the Middle East".

"Message from Bertrand Russell to the International Conference of Parlimentarians in Cairo, February 1970." Reprinted in The New York Times, Feb. 23, 1970.

And this is what Erich Fromm said: (thanks to Jamil T. for finding it)

...and may I add another similar statement by Erich Fromm, criticizing the Zionist assertion that Palestine is the land of the Jews, noting: "The principle holds that no citizen loses his property or his rights of citizenship and the citizenship right is de facto a right to which (Palestinians in Israel) have much more legitimacy than the Jews.... If all nations would suddenly claim territories in which their forefathers lived two thousands years ago, this world would be a madhouse." (Jewish Letter, February 9, 1959)

Ed Seiler of the Asimov Society responded to a query by Ed Corrigan. Here is his reply:

As is the case for many topics on which Asimov wrote, I'm sure he expressed his views about Zionism in a number of pieces. One that I know of is in _In Joy Still Felt_, the second volume of his autobiography. There, he tells of having dinner in 1959 with one of his old college chums and his wife, an Israeli. Asimov wrote: "As usual, I found myself in the odd position of not being a Zionist and of not particularly valuing my Jewish heritage.

I like Jewish cooking, Jewish music, Jewish jokes -- but I'm not *serious* about it. I also like other kinds of cooking, music, and jokes (in fact, we were eating in a Chinese restaurant). I don't even mind *being* Jewish. I make no secret about being Jewish in this book, or elsewhere, and I've never tried to change my name.

I just think it is more important to be human and to have a human heritage; and I think it is wrong for anyone to feel that there is anything special about any one heritage of whatever kind. It is delightful to have the human heritage exist in a thousand varieties, for it makes for greater interest, but as soon as one variety is thought to be more important than another, the groundwork is laid for destroying them all."

He had some additional thoughts in a chapter titled "Anti-Semitism" in _I. Asimov_, his third autobiographical volume. There, he discussed how he was distressed by the capability of the historically oppressed (such as the Jews) to in turn become oppressors if given the chance, and writes, "Right now, there is an influx of Soviet Jews into Israel. They are fleeing because they expect religious persecution. Yet at the instant their feet touched Israeli soil, they became extreme Israeli nationalists with no pity for the Palestinians. From persecuted to persecutors in the blinking of an eye."-- Ed Seiler


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