Israel: a new primer

Should Israel Exist?
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Books: Curtis, Michael. Should Israel Exist? A Sovereign Nation Under Attack by the International Community. Noble, OK: Balfour Books, April, 2012. ISBN 978-1-933267-30-2.

Americans know too little about Israel to decide, or vote, intelligently on Middle East policy, or for politicians who promise to solve the Middle East’s problems. They need a primer, something to sort out fact from fiction and truth from lies, and to put the history of Israel, all 3500 years of it, into proper perspective. Michael Curtis’ new book, Should Israel Exist?, does this.

Content

Israel under attack

Curtis wastes no time to make his point: Israel is under attack, not on the battlefield (at least, not now) but in the press, the United Nations, and often in court. Those attacks are grossly unfair. In his introduction, Curtis reminds his readers why they should care. Israel, says Curtis, is “the canary in the coal mine.” If Israel falls, the forces that brought it down will attack all Western societies next, especially the United States.

Curtis says nothing new. Radical Muslims say this every day:

First Saturday, then Sunday.

Curtis does not repeat those words verbatim, but he shows how such words might apply. In three (out of 26) chapters, Curtis lays out all the charges that the Arabs, the United Nations, and various political leftists have ever made against Israel. His third chapter is the most interesting: he discusses a new kind of warfare, called lawfare. Here is how that works: if an enemy cannot take what he wants by force, he sues to get it. Worse, he sometimes sues in courts that ought never have jurisdiction over the matter. Thus Curtis makes his most scathing counterattack on the principle of universal jurisdiction. According to that notion, any country’s courts can judge what someone did outside that country’s borders, or else an “international court” can judge what someone does anywhere in the world. Those who invented that principle, used it to judge cases of piracy. All countries claim jurisdiction over pirates that their navies capture and bring to their home ports. (See, for instance, the US Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 10.) Now, says Curtis, countries everywhere, and the UN, are abusing universal jurisdiction to bring specious charges against Israel. (And not Israel only! That is Curtis’ most dire warning: what happens to Israel and its officials can happen to those of any country, including America. And not only can, but has.)

Michael Curtis, PhD, author of Should Israel Exist?

Michael Curtis, PhD. Photo: Balfour Books.

Curtis takes a curious tone. He does not pretend to identify directly with Israel. Instead he takes the view of an outside observer, and expresses shock and outrage that any one country should come under repeated attack, while other countries get a pass. Curtis’ point on that last is twofold:

  1. Israel is not guilty of most of the crimes that people impute to it.
  2. These other countries that Curtis mentions have done the very things they accuse Israel of doing, and even more things that they never even thought to accuse Israel of doing.

And by casting himself as an observer without an interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict per se, Curtis shows, far more effectively, that no such observer can find justice in the world’s treatment of Israel.

Refuting the charges

In the next fourteen chapters, Curtis considers, and refutes, every charge that anyone makes against Israel. This goes beyond anything that Israel does today. Curtis shows that Israel has not displaced anyone, and does not occupy territory that has ever been the sovereign land of any nation except Israel. To Curtis, “Israel” means more than the Republic of Israel that David Ben-Gurion declared on 5 Iyyar AM 5708 (14 May AD 1948). Israel includes Biblical Israel, beginning at least with the United Kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon.

Curtis leads by refuting the charge of racism. He dwells at length on UN General Assembly Resolution 3379(XXX), which says flatly

that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.

About which, of course, Ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously thundered,

The United States of America…does not acknowledge, will not abide by, will never acquiesce in, this infamous act!

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a consistent advocate for Israel

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once US Ambassador to the United Nations. Photo: The United States Senate

Curtis writes in a meticulous style that a lawyer might use, and that Thomas Jefferson used to write the Declaration of Independence. In this case, he points out why racism is wrong anyway (because no one can even define what a race is), what racism really means, and why no one can accuse Israel of it with any justice. This is what Michael Curtis does throughout his book. For every charge that anyone has made, he defines what the crime really means, and then shows that Israel is not guilty of that crime.

Nor does Curtis stop there. He makes powerful counterclaims against Israel’s accusers. In so doing, he solves a riddle that surely vexes anyone in the West or in Israel itself: why do certain people hate us so? He lays the blame squarely on one man, more than any other: Haj Amin Husseini, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He interpreted the Koran, correctly or not, to tell Muslims to make war against Israel, and then against the rest of the world. He incited his fellow Arabs to fight and kill the Jews instead of living side-by-side with them in peace. He struck a chilling deal with Adolf Hitler, and even incited the Nazis to go further than they intended. (Curtis shocks his readers by saying that the Nazis might have let some of the Jews go to “Palestine,” just to get them out of Europe. But Haj Amin Husseini instead insisted, “Kill them!”) And he set the tone that radical Muslims have taken ever since: that conquering first Israel, and then the world, is the first duty of an Arab and a Muslim.

I declare a holy war! Kill the Jews! Murder them all!

Haj Amin Husseini is not Curtis’ only target. He devotes almost as much space to excoriate the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the agency that takes care of “Palestinian refugees” in historic Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) and, until recently, in Gaza. The UNRWA, he says, is a permanent welfare agency. (And also a special agency just for Palestinian Arabs; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees handles all other cases in which a country kicks or chases out large groups of people.) Anyone reading this chapter will clearly see that the UNRWA seeks to make itself last forever, and rake in a large budget. (Economist have a nasty phrase for that sort of thing: “rent-seeking.”) And when they do that, they also give their clients, and those who say they care about them, an excuse never to accept Israel as a country and move on from there. Curtis points out something else: no one has ever taken care of Jewish refugees after so many Arab countries kicked them out with not much more than the clothes on their backs. Instead, Israel took many of them in, and other Western countries, willing at least to let Jews assimilate as citizens or subjects, took in the rest.

In his other chapters, Curtis patiently explains the history of Israel, beginning with the coronation of King Saul and, even further back, when Moses led a 600,000-strong nation out of ancient Egypt. He shows that Israel existed as a sovereign kingdom for over 400 years. And, from 586 BC to 1948, no sovereign country existed on that territory. The only exceptions might be the Hasmonean kingdom that fell to the forces of Pompey the Great in 63 BC, and the Crusader Latin Kingdom that held sway for 88 years until Saladin conquered it. First Babylonia, then Medo-Persia, then Greco-Macedonia (Alexander the Great), then the Seleucid Empire occupied the territory for centuries. Muslims did not occupy the land until the 7th century AD. And when the first Jews started to buy the land, they found willing buyers. (In fact, author Susan Marcus told this correspondent last year that the Arabs at first laughed behind their hands as the Jews bought land that at the time was swamp and desert. They stopped laughing when the Jews reclaimed both.)

All that to say that Israel is not a colonial power, and does not truly “occupy” Gaza or the West Bank. Nor has Israel forcibly relocated any group of Jews into those territories to build settlements. Those who build and live in those settlement, do so voluntarily, so that the Fourth Geneva Convention, that retroactively condemned the Nazis for relocating Germans into occupied countries, does not apply.

Israel today

Israel, its neighbors, and disputed territories

Israel, its neighbors, and disputed territories. Graphic: Central Intelligence Agency

Curtis spends his next eight chapters describing Israel today and how it works. He first discusses land laws and citizenship for Israel and its neighbors. (He pays particular attention to the 1950 Law of Return, that grants automatic Israeli nationality to any Jew anywhere in the world. Citizenship is the next step from nationality; any national may ask for that.) Again he seeks to show that the founders of Israel did not steal vast tracts of land from the Arabs, as their detractors allege. Nor does Israel discriminate against any particular people, though they do prefer Jews. Next he discusses why the Jews must think of themselves as a people, and what Israel needs for its defense.

He concludes by discussing something he hints at in the beginning: the motives of Israel’s detractors. Any country has its internal critics, who are not comfortable with “exceptionalism” on behalf of their country. Israel is no exception. Beyond that, simple anti-Semitism drives most critics. (Curtis even reveals where The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion came from, and how Palestinian teachers teach the Protocols, and even deny the Holocaust, in West Bank schools. Not only does the UNRWA let this happen under their noses; they actively cooperate with this.)

Craft

The best feature of Curtis’ book is its length—or rather, shortness. At 340 6×9 pages, this book probably holds 100,000 words. That Curtis makes so many points with so relatively few words is remarkable in itself. Anyone can read it, from cover to cover, within two or three days.

The book does suffer from at least two editorial flaws. First, Curtis uses far too many long, “stringy” sentences, having many independent and dependent clauses, and absolute phrases. Sometimes he places those phrases out of order, especially in the first three chapters. Second, this reviewer found at least one instance in which Curtis used one word when he meant its opposite, and one stray “return-linefeed” that broke off a fragment of one of his compound-complex sentences. This suggests that he submitted copy that he thought was print-ready, but wasn’t, and never asked a dedicated editor to proof his copy for sentence structure and reading ease. This reviewer did not try to run a Flesch Reading Ease Test on Curtis’ copy, but would guess that it would score 30 or lower. Anyone reading that kind of copy would in theory need a bachelor’s degree to read it and understand it. (This probably should surprise no one. Curtis was once, after all, a university professor.)

That is a shame, because Curtis needs to reach more than any college or graduate-school readership. Everyone, but especially every voting citizen in America, Great Britain, France, and other Western democratic republics, should read this book. It pleads the case for Israel, and does so more effectively than most other books this reviewer has so far seen. And it warns that the attacks on Israel are part of a larger war against all of Western civilization. That is only a propaganda war today, but could break out into a shooting war any time. Israelis know this already. Americans, Britons, Frenchmen, and other citizens and subjects of Western republics (or constitutional monarchies) do not.

Editor-in-chief at | + posts

Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.

30 Responses to Israel: a new primer

  1. rpeh says:

    Does this book address the fact that Israel has violated more UN resolutions than any other state?

    You won’t believe me, I’m sure, but I truly believe Israel has a right to exist. On the other hand, the way in which Western society gives the Israeli state a right to ignore every piece of international law ever passed is a disgrace.

    At the moment, the only version I can find for sale in England is the Kindle version, and I don’t own such a device. If a paper version appears I’ll gladly buy it, but in the meantime please can you tell me if the book addresses this issue or if it’s just another whitewash.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Suppose you order this book, and read it for yourself, and then tell me how Israel can be said to be in violation of anything.

      I don’t expect you to have read it by now. After all, Amazon shows it temporarily out-of-stock. But I do expect you to examine your own heart and ask yourself where the attitudes you expressed, come from.

      In the meantime: if you follow the link I placed in the ISBN number, that will take you to Amazon USA, You can follow the links from there to any version that is available, for order or for pre-order.

      • Fergus Mason says:

        “and then tell me how Israel can be said to be in violation of anything.”

        Terry, Israel is demonstrably in violation of lots of things, starting with the Fourth Geneva Convention.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          That doesn’t apply in this case. Never once did Israel draft anyone to “settle” in Judea or Samaria. That’s what the Fourth Geneva Convention was all about: forcible migration of your regular subjects into an occupied region.

          And in this case, not a single nation-state wants to possess the West Bank or Gaza. Jordan and Egypt, respectively, have washed their collective hands of those territories long ago. (Well, maybe Egypt will get interested again, but so far, not a sign.) So where’s the occupation?

  2. Fergus Mason says:

    “Nor does Israel discriminate against any particular people, though they do prefer Jews.”

    That’s somewhat disingenious. The fact is that Israeli law discriminates against EVERYONE who isn’t jewish. Discriminating in favour of one particular group is just as bad as discriminating against one particular group.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      A matter of opinion. And in this case, I would go along with that.

  3. Paul Burnett says:

    (1) The Israeli Government has worked very hard to convince American fundamentalists that there is no difference between the Israel of the Bible and today’s very different Israel. There is.

    (2) Does the book mention the circumstances of the death of Truman’s Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal? Forrestal was an anti-Zionist who was convinced Israeli agents were shadowing him. They were.

    (3) I will have to contemplate spending $9.99 for the Kindle version of the book.

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Well, why don’t you read the book, and get some insights?

      And if the best you can offer is a suggestion that Forrestal was murdered, then you lose. The evidence that Curtis musters on Israel’s side is overwhelming.

  4. Fergus Mason says:

    “the Fourth Geneva Convention, that retroactively condemned the Nazis for relocating Germans into occupied countries, does not apply.”

    Oh yes it does:

    Article 49 (1):

    “Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”[83]

    Article 49 (6):

    “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”

    Transfers of population only have to be forcible if they concern transfers from the occupied territory, not to it. Here are the words of Theodor Meron, legal counsel to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, in 1967:

    “My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

    • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

      Meron’s analysis failed on this key point: if I move out of one house and into another, the government does not “transfer” me anywhere. I “transfer” myself. And so it is with “settlers,” every one of whom is a volunteer.

      • Fergus Mason says:

        Whether they are volunteers or not has nothing to do with it: they are being transferred into the occupied territory with the assistance of the occupying power. They are supported by Israeli troops, register their cars with the Israeli authorities, have Israeli local councils and retain Israeli citizenship. Over a third of settlements on the West Bank are on land requisitioned from its owners by the IDF for “security purposes.” A 2009 Israeli Defence Ministry written by Colonel Baruch Spiegel details a long list of illegal land seizures by settlers.

        It’s a population transfer and it’s illegal. The UN, the ICJ and every government in the world bar Israel recognise this.

        • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

          But that “recognition” doesn’t make the proposition just. You can now read my much more richly detailed response to you.

          • Fergus Mason says:

            Terry, if the whole world has one opinion and a single state – which happens to be in violation of what everyone else, including its only supporter, says is the law – has another, it seems fairly conclusive that the lone state is in the wrong.

            Population transfers are illegal, end of.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Your analysis fails on another essential point: the “whole world” has changed the rules in mid-game. Have you bothered to read my longer treatment of the settlement question? Do you understand, for instance, that the Jordanians have done worse: taken Jewish property and evicted Jews from the entire region? The Israelis never did that.

          • Fergus Mason says:

            “the “whole world” has changed the rules in mid-game.”

            No it hasn’t. Israel’s settlements have NEVER been internationally accepted.

            “the Jordanians have done worse: taken Jewish property and evicted Jews from the entire region? The Israelis never did that.”

            They haven’t evicted Arabs from the entire region, but they certainly have seized Arab property. And the old “security reasons” argument won’t wash at all. If you can build jewish houses on land seized for “security reasons” then there was no reason to demolish the Arab ones that were already there. It’s a scam, and plenty in the IDF are fed up with being forced to go along with it. Many of the settlers, like the late and distinctly unlamented Baruch Goldstein, are fanatics who are every bit as crazed and vicious as Hezbollah.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Yeah, well, hey: show me reliable reports of any murders that settlers have committed.

            And by the way: if those settlers are as “fanatical” as you say, then nobody needed to “transfer” them anywhere, and your assertion of “transfer” falls to the ground.

            Where I sit, they’re not fanatical; they’re patriotic.

          • Jeff A says:

            That the Jordanians have done worse has absolutely no bearing on whether or not Israel has “settled/transfered/etc” people. No comment on that as the book you point us at is not widely/readily available at this time and I therefore can not evaluate its claims.
            That being said, your statement is almost verbatim a classic example of “Tu Quoque” fallacy. At most you appear to be trying to establish that Jordan is *worse* than Israel with regards to taking property and evicting people, which does not itself make Israel right or good in its historical actions.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Here’s another problem with your analysis: the world has done nothing about the crimes that the Jordanians committed. They never even discussed that. That is the point of bringing up the Jordanian’s crimes. It’s not the Jordanians’ guilt that justifies or excuses the Israelis; it’s that the world allowed the Jordanians to do what they did. So what you call “the world” has abdicated its subject-matter jurisdiction by its selective application of international law. This is also what I mean by changing the rules mid-game.

          • Fergus Mason says:

            “show me reliable reports of any murders that settlers have committed.”

            OK then, let’s start with Baruch Goldstein, who walked into a mosque and shot 29 people dead. Was that patriotic?

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            Disputed.

          • Fergus Mason says:

            No Terry, it isn’t disputed. Your link was written by someone who is a)biased and b) completely ignorant about military firearms. All that is disputed is whether Goldstein was acting alone (as I believe) or assisted by Israeli troops. Goldstein was known as a Kahanist fanatic who, despite being an IDF doctor, refused to treat Arab IDF soldiers.

          • Terry A. Hurlbut says:

            If you can challenge the evidence that the author produces, evidence showing, for example, that Goldstein would not have been able to get all his rounds off or inflict all the casualties imputed to him, show it.

          • Fergus Mason says:

            Goldstein was firing at close range into a dense crowd. Even firing rapid single shots – which is what I’d have done – he could empty a magazine in ten or twelve seconds, and four in little over a minute. The 5.56mm NATO bullet is notorious for over-penetrating; unless it hits a bone it is very common for a round to pass right through its target and take quite a lot of its energy with it. If the bullet DOES hit a bone you can get injuries from flying fragments of bone and metal. Injuries could also have been inflicted by crowd behaviour as people tried to flee, or by the shots fired by the confused (and, going by the description, not very competent) IDF guards outside.

            In addition, Goldstein wasn’t killed while reloading; he was overpowered when someone managed to brain him with a fire extinguisher.

    • rpeh says:

      Not a post – I just want to ask you to fix the problem with the previous post in this sequence that causes everything else to appear in italics.

  5. […] Israel: a new primer […]

  6. repeh and Fergus – Regarding most of your comment responses:

    Here it seems, we witness again, being forced to read your contrary responses. When, if ever have you ever complimented this site and article’s authors for having done a good job? Rather, you continue to go out of your way to be like the proverbial flies, hell-bent to contaminate the ointment.

    I think that this book review is a great terse summary. People for too long have been propagandized by a lib media who could really care less about Israel’s survival and very existence.

    • Fergus Mason says:

      “When, if ever have you ever complimented this site and article’s authors for having done a good job?”

      Oh I will, as soon as it’s the case.

      • rpeh says:

        I have done, although maybe not with this name. For instance, I complimented Terry on his stance on SOPA. There have been a couple of other cases. I’ve decided to post under my own name now, since (unlike other right wing sites) CNAV seems to have a sense of honour when it comes to releasing details.

        Nathan, if you only want to hear voices similar to your own then please encourage Terry to block me, Fergus and the others. If you want a venue for an open exchange of views, it seems that we have one – for the most part.

  7. […] Israel: a new primer […]

  8. […] Note: see also this review of a needed primer on […]

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