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Book Defending Palestinian Right To Resist Banned After Zionist Pressure

By Reuters
August 7, 2003

BERLIN - A German publisher has halted the printing of a controversial book criticized for being anti-Semitic and for defending Palestinian attacks against Israel.

The publisher said "After the Terror", in which philosopher Ted Honderich says Palestinians have a "moral right to their terrorism" because of their treatment by Israel, crossed the boundary for legitimate discussion about controversial subjects.

"We did not read the book carefully enough," a spokeswoman for publishing house Suhrkamp Verlag said yesterday.

The decision to halt printing follows a letter from Holocaust researcher Micha Brumlik to the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper urging the book's immediate withdrawal.

Brumlik accused Honderich of spreading "anti-Semitic anti-Zionism" and justifying the murder of Jewish civilians in Israel. But Canadian-born Honderich, who has a Jewish wife and lives in Britain, said on his Web site that Brumlik's accusations of anti-Semitism displayed "audacious stupidity".

His book, which investigates the morality of terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001, is still being published in English. The decision to stop printing only affects the German edition.

Suhrkamp said the book would not be removed from shops but there would be no second print run. "We are not recalling. That would really make it cult!" the spokeswoman said.

The controversy follows Suhrkamp's publication last year of the novel, "Death of a Critic," by Martin Walser, widely criticized as a thinly veiled attack with anti-Semitic overtones on prominent intellectual Marcel Reich-Ranicki.

Extract From First Chapter Of
"After The Terror"

Prof. Ted Honderich Website

The region that includes what is now Palestine, despite the contribution of the Bible to misconceptions, was a land of Semites from the Arabian peninsula in the beginning -- Semites being speakers of a certain family of languages -- and except for a longer and a shorter interlude, brief in terms of its long history, it remained such a land until very recently. That is, it was settled around 4,000 BC. and remained Semitic rather than Hebrew in particular except for a few centuries around 700 BC and a shorter time around the birth of Christ. It was such despite Egyptian, Roman and other empires having sway over it. It was consecrated for Judaism and Christianity, so to speak, by the history of the Old Testament and the birth and death of Christ. It was consecrated for Islam by Muhammad's veneration of it as a result of his embracing of the other two religions in his own.

What is the relevance of this ancient past? Are we conceivably to decide great matters of living space and homelands now by ancient religion and its myths? Shall we start up all the world again by studying holy books? Do right and wrong now depend at all on what happened back then? Morality is about the living and those to come, isn't it? Is the remote past what the living really care about? They may say so, but is it really?

In 1900 there were 500,000 Arabs and 50,000 Jews in Palestine. Many of the latter had arrived as a result of the Zionist struggle for a homeland begun shortly before. This movement was the result of anti-Semitism, hostility to and prejudice against Jews, a unique history of contempt, envy, and persecution. The culture of the Arabs in 1900, judged from a Western point of view, was rudimentary. So too was their commercial activity. They could be and were spoken of as peasants. Their traditions of governing or social cooperation did not amount to a modern state. In 1917 Britain's foreign minister, Arthur Balfour, declared support for a national homeland for the Jews in Palestine, without prejudice to the rights of the overwhelmingly larger non-Jewish population. Arab opposition to further Jewish immigration, including violence and a general strike in 1936, was disregarded. What is the relevance of this closer past?

The destruction of European Jews by Hitler and the Germans during the Second World War did not issue, as in justice it ought to have, in a Jewish state carved out of Germany. It eventually issued, rather, in the United Nations resolving on a certain partition of Palestine. There were 749,000 Arabs and 9,250 Jews in what would become the Arab state if the partition went ahead. There were 497,000 Arabs and 498,000 Jews in what would be the Jewish state.*

*These figures, like others in these pages, come from the best of brief accounts known to me of Palestine and Israel, in The World Guide, 2001/2002, (Oxford: New Internationalist Publications), an annual international survey of notable independence of mind.

What happened instead of the agreed partition was partly the result of actions by Jewish terrorists, partly the result of international politics and familiarity with it, partly of sympathy, and partly of finance mainly from American and other Jews. What happened was Israel's humanly understandable proclamation of itself as an independent country in 1948, and its prompt recognition as such by us.

This was followed by its use of force and of terrorism, including the massacre of an entire village, led by Menachem Begin, subsequently prime minister of Israel. In the ensuing 1948 war begun by Arab countries, in which they sought to reclaim land, Israel took more land, nearly half as much again as resolved by the United Nations. The Palestinians remained stateless.

In the 6-day war of 1967, which followed actions by Arab terrorists, the Jewish state seized the whole of Palestine. It did so with the use of American arms, and has since depended on America. By this time more than half of the Palestinians had been driven out of their homes or abandoned them in fear. They went to refugee camps, pens where they remained. The United Nations resolution calling Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories was ignored, by way of the argument that it needed secure borders, and with the necessary compliance of the United States and other powers.

Following Israel's 'Operation Peace for Galilea' in 1982, which was an invasion of Lebanon, appalling massacres of Arab civilians were instigated in refugee camps. For this terrorism another subsequent Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon, was held personally responsible by an inquiry forced on the Israeli governments and conducted by it. In 1987 persistent terrorism by Arabs against Israelis was begun, part of the intifada or uprising. With interludes of negotiation and hope, there was small-scale conflict thereafter between the Israeli army and Palestinian civilians and armed organizations. The casualties were overwhelmingly on the Arab side. There was protest by a number of Israelis against their country.

Except for one period, the building of settlements on Arab land in the occupied territories continued, which policy was officially condemned by the United Nations but not prevented. Between 250,000 and 400,000 Soviet Jews were resettled on Arab land between 1989 and 1991. A third of the Palestinians in the occupied territories were living in refugee camps. To the Jewish diaspora had been added a Palestinian diaspora. Of about seven million Palestinians, about half were now outside of Palestine.

Official aid from the United States to Israel from 1949 had reached $40 billion in 1967, this being 21.5% of all American foreign aid. By 1991, also according to American figures, the amount reached £53 billion. United Nations resolutions against Israel have come to nothing because of the American veto in the Security Council. The Palestinian resistance, by comparison, has had to rely not on tanks and planes but mainly on stones, snipers and suicide bombers.

In the spring of 2002, as a result of provocation by Prime Minister Sharon and then renewed suicide killings by Palestinians, and with the terrorism of September 11 as a further cause or pretext, Israel again made use of its army and airforce. Tanks encircled villages, the leader of the Palestinians was humiliated, rockets and armoured bulldozers wrecked homes, Red Cross ambulances trying to get to wounded and dying Palestinians were stopped, bodies of victims were disposed of by those who killed them, uncounted by their own side. It horrified the world, save for many Americans left uninformed by their media.

This was said to be Israel's war on terrorism. Was it terrorism itself? Would calling it terrorism be loose talk? A kind of exaggeration? Emotional? Like the Palestinian diplomat's remembering the Holocaust on the television news and saying his people were now the Jews of the Jews? That question will have to wait a while.

History is a proof that peoples demand the freedom that is their running of their own lives in a place to which their history and culture attaches them. It is a freedom for which oppressed people have always fought. It is a freedom such that a threat against it in 1939 united almost all of us against Germany. It has been denied to the Palestinians. Their bitterness is owed not only to bare fact of the loss of their homeland, so to speak, but to their having had it taken from them.

Palestinians have been denied by their enemy exactly the right of a people that has been secured and defended by that enemy for itself. No fear or half-fear or pretended fear on the part of the Israelis, who are a nuclear power, let alone talk of terrorism against democracy, can touch the enormity of this moral inconsistency. The essential American part in it is not lessened by its having been played, by most non-Jewish Americans, in a kind of absent-mindedness, sometimes wilful.

The terrible inconsistency is plain to all who are unblinded, plain to very many Jews in and out of Israel. No hair-splitting will help. It is as plain to those of us who also see that it was a moral necessity after the second world war that the Jews come to have a homeland, in Palestine if not elsewhere. Add in about the inconsistency, if you want, that it is not the first one in the existence of a people or a person. Say there are inconsistencies in my existence, and in yours, and on the Arab side. No doubt. But some consistencies matter more. To mention another one, being consistent about saving lives is different from being consistent about saving Jewish lives.

It is not only the freedom of a people that has been denied to the Palestinians. Another thing, which can indeed be distinguished, is respect and self-respect. Having been among the principal victims of racism in history, Jews now seem to have learned from their abusers. Zionism as it is has rightly been condemned as racist by the United Nations, whatever further analysis of the fact is attempted. As for the material goods that serve to provide a quality of life, they are in short supply in a refugee camp. So too is the culture of a people. With respect to the good of human relationships, no more needs to be remarked on than large numbers of wrecked families. These things are insults, too, indeed injuries, to the rest of the Arab world.

The bottom fact of it all, if not the only fact, is that the lives of several million people have been made what we are calling bad by wrongful actions of people who suffered uniquely before them and of their supporters elsewhere, mainly in America. It is inconceivable that the experience of the Palestinians does not open questions about the ensuing terrible actions by them and on their behalf, and about what we are to think and do. As much as what we were thinking about before, lengths of lifetimes in different places, Palestine opens questions about right and wrong in general, about our responsibility for what has gone wrong, about what really can be said in condemnation of the terrorism of September 11, and about our own moral relationship to that day and afterwards and what is to be done now.


Further Information

Related Story:

Oxfam reject donation from author who defends Palestinians' right to resist:

Professor Ted Henderich's Website:

Terrorism For Humanity - lecture by Professor Ted Henderich to the International Social Philosophy Conference for 2003 at Northeastern University in Boston