Psychology not History

Recently I wrote a piece entitled “Death of Dictators” (Nov 29) that set me thinking about the nature of dictators.  This includes Emperors, Kings, Fascist and Communist dictators and many so-called cult leaders.  In their resemblance to each other they give away their true nature.  They are all homicidal megalomaniacs, who should be incarcerated in an asylum rather than be able to hold the power of life or death over others.  In that respect they should be judged psychologically not historically.

They were mentally disturbed individuals who found themselves in a chaotic social situation, with the break-down of law and order, who took advantage of this situation to ruthlessly eliminate rivals and to gain power.  They used whatever ideology or dogma was handy for their purpose, and once they had achieved power within the context of their historical situation, they proceeded to use whatever excuses were available to simply murder anyone who was a threat or who they disliked.  Seen in this light, although historians have written reams about Bolshevism and Communism in regard to Stalin and the nature of Fascism and Nationalism in regard to Mussolini and Hitler and all the other dictators, including Tsar Nicholas II and his Romanov predecessors, and Saddam Hussein, who used the Baathist party as a means to gain power, and Ayatollah Khomeini who used Shi’ism, we must challenge these interpretations.

I do not for a moment disbelieve that their analyses are wrong, it’s just that I don’t accept that Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Ceacescu, Saddam Hussein, the Ayatollahs of Iran and so on are really sincere about their beliefs.  That they murder hundreds of thousands or even millions of people in order to establish a greater Germany or an ideal socialist society, it’s that they use these concepts as a front, while their true motivation is ME!   This is the “cult of personality,” I know what to do, I want to have control, I need to eliminate all rivals.

Whether Hitler was a sincere anti-Semite is irrelevant, the fact is that he used anti-Semitism cleverly to gain power in a country, Germany, that was suffused with this belief.  It’s a fact that Stalin murdered every other member of the original Central Committee of the Communist Party.  Hafez Assad razed the city of Hama in 1982, not to improve the plight of the Syrian people, but to maintain power, and his son Bashar did even worse, killing at least 500,000 Syrians.  Whether Stalin, Ceausescu, Kim Il-Sung or Mao Tse-Tung really believed in the brotherhood of man and wanted to improve the plight of the peasants is irrelevant, they used these convictions that others may have believed to take over a movement and then kill all the true believers and everyone else who got in their way.

I remember a truly chilling video of Saddam Hussein, after he had gained power, having a meeting of the central committee of the Ba’ath party, and saying that there were traitors in the audience, and he kept everyone there for hours, but no one confessed.  Finally, he called out names, and soldiers took them away, shaking in fear, and they were shot outside the hall, so everyone could hear.  That’s the way a true dictator operates, a homicidal megalomaniac.  Hitler had his “night of the long knives” when he got rid of Ernst Rohm and his SA followers, Stalin had his Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries, bourgeois reactionaries, army generals, etc, etc., who he had murdered, not to improve the lot of the people, but to satisfy his own psychological urges.  Similarly Jim Jones murdered all his followers in a village named after himself, Jonestown, when he realized he had gone too far in killing a US Congressman.

What I am saying is that we should not take the political or other stated motivations of these individuals at face value and judge them purely historically, but rather that we should judge them psychologically. In that respect they show much more similarity to each other. Hopefully democracy, for all its faults, is a system that prevents such people from taking power, by using the ballot box as the mechanism to achieve power that hopefully filters them out.

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Death of Dictators

I am currently reading “The Last of the Tsars” by Robert Service (2016), about the last 18 months of the life of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, deposed by the Russian revolution and executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.  It seems to be the verdict of history that most autocratic rulers, emperors, monarchs and dictators, come to a bad end.

So it has been with King Louis XIV of France,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary, King Faisal of Iraq, King Abdullah I of Jordan.  Consulting the term “regicide” in Wikipedia, there is a list of 138 assassinations and murders of kings, including 17 British monarchs.  Then there are the dictators, Adolf Hitler who committed suicide, Benito Mussolini and Muammar Qaddafi, who were murdered by mobs, Nicolae Ceausescu, who was shot by his bodyguard, Saddam Hussein, who was sentenced to death by trial. 

But, some dictators manage to die naturally in their beds, such as Stalin, who led a solitary life to protect himself, Idi Amin, who was allowed to live in luxury in Saudi Arabia, Francisco Franco of Spain, Fidel Castro, who died recently at the age of 90, and previous dictators of North Korea.  But, these are the exceptions rather than the rule, according to the old adage, “live by the sword, die by the sword.”

Of course, there are still many absolute dictators alive today, the Supreme Ayatollah of Iran, the Premier of Communist China, the Kim dynasty in N. Korea, Assad in Syria.  Some claim to be “democratic”, such as Pres. Putin of Russia, but few are fooled.  There are 49 listed as holding absolute power.  Let’s hope they will all be deposed sooner or later.

Zionism and Nationalism

I am a Zionist, that means that I believe the Jews are a nation and I affirm that as any nation the Jews deserve to have their own nation-state, Israel.  More than most other peoples the Jews need such a State to protect us from our many enemies who don’t hesitate to kill us, this includes Arabs, Muslims, right-wing and left-wing political extremists.

Being a Zionist also means that I am a nationalist.  The term “nationalism” has come under criticism, since pres. Trump’s “Make America Great” movement is considered by many to be nationalistic. Pres. Macron of France in his speech at the WWI Centenary commemoration in Paris stated that “nationalism is the opposite of patriotism.”

Being a nationalist means I support self-determination for most peoples.  This includes the Kurds, the Armenians, the Chechens, the Irish, the Scots, etc.  But, this cannot be at the expense of other people’s self-determination, such as the Palestinians, hardly a distinct people, whose main aim is to destroy Israel.

In Europe there is a problem, namely the rise of nationalism in the face of increased waves of foreign immigrants, mostly Muslims and Africans, fleeing war, social upheaval and economic hardship.  Even though Jews were once refugees from persecution, especially before and during WWII, that does not mean we should support the continued economic migration of millions of people into the more affluent countries of Western Europe and the US, as some American Jews believe. This would be a suicidal policy.

But, note that the original Zionists were mostly socialists.  They believed in the brotherhood of man and naively believed that even though they were not tolerated by  the peoples of Europe, somehow the Arabs would be different.  Boy, were they wrong!  This was a blithely ignorant view of Arab and Muslim culture and history.  There were some socialist Zionists, however, who had a more pragmatic view and knew that to establish a Jewish State would require conflict and sacrifice. Principal among them was David Ben Gurion, who prepared for what he saw as the oncoming attempt by the British and the Arabs to wipe out the Jewish presence in the Holy Land.

Nevertheless, Zionist socialism failed to adequately develop the country, and its sole control over the State from 1948 ended in 1977 with the election of right-wing Menachem Begin’s Herut (Freedom) Party, which later became Likud.   The electorate in Israel, just as in the rest of the democratic world, has moved rightwards.  Such leaders as Trump, Bolsonaro in Brazil, Macron in France, and right-wing leaders in several other European countries (Hungary, Greece) are examples of this.

The failure of Communism in the Soviet Union and in Cuba, as well as in China, where they introduced capitalism with great success (as long as the people accept Communist Party control), are symptomatic of this trend.  Also, Venezuela is a prime example of what happens when a prosperous country is taken over by a socialist party and it become a failed state and a dictatorship.  Over time, in Israel, Likud under PM Netanyahu, has introduced capitalist economics and the State of Israel has prospered.

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First World War Centenary

Nov 11, 2018, is the centenary of the signing of the armistice that ended WWI, that was called “the Great War” and “the War to end all Wars.”  But, it turned out only to be the prelude to an even more destructive and deadly war, WWII a mere 21 years later.  Of course, wars recede into memory and the lasting effects of WWII have tended to overshadow those from WWI.  But, WWI was until its occurrence the greatest conflict and the most costly in terms of loss of life that had ever occurred before.

Note that WWI was the first major war in which the loss of civilian lives exceeded that of the soldiers fighting in the combatant armies.  There were estimated to be a total of ca. 9 million soldiers killed and ca. 12 million civilians.  In addition there were ca. 24 million other wounded casualties.  Some of the battles of WWI were clearly suicidal,  indeed some attacks occurred when it was known that the enemy was warned in advance.  Gen. Montgomery who fought in WWI as an officer was asked what was the main difference between WWI and WWII, and he said that in WWII the generals could no longer regard their soldiers as expendable statistics as they did in WWI, but as real human beings whose lives were in their care.

Pres. Macron in his speech at the Arc de Triomph (celebrating triumph in war), stated that the choice in future was between multi-lateralism and nationalism.  I am not sure that is right.  Nationalism itself is not bad, it is the form of ideology that believes that only one’s own belief systems or nationality are superior to all others and that it is acceptable to go to war and to kill others to achieve ones’ goals that is evil.  The terrorists who attack countries today are in general not nationalists.  There are many failed states, such as Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen and so on that are cauldrons of war, and there are  examples of countries trying to conquer the land of others, such as Russia in eastern Ukraine and Iran in the Middle East, that are the initiators of wars through their twisted ideology.

If one can say that there was a positive outcome from such a terrible tragedy as WWI, it was that Empires that controlled the lives of countless peoples were largely swept away.  Namely the Austro-Hungarian and the Turkish Empires.  Those of Britain and France had to wait until after WWII.  But, there were of course many terrible consequences of WWI.  First among them was the rise of Nazism in Germany, and the rise of Communism in Russia.  Now we seem to have got beyond these evil ideologies and have achieved at great cost a civilized peace in Europe in which the French President and the German Chancellor embrace on this anniversary.  May it ever be so.

Commentary on the Holocaust

After reading the two iconic books, “The Holocaust by Bullets” and “In Broad Daylight,” by Father Patrick Desbois, I have modified my views on the issue of the Holocaust.  I used to believe that the Jews had put up insufficient resistance, and to some extent I still believe that.  Yet, these massacres were so well-organized by the Germans with typical efficiency and so surprising to the victims that there was no way that any effective resistance could have been mounted.  It would have taken many years prior to the advent of WWII for these Jews, living scattered as a minority throughout a huge area and under very repressive governments to have initiated a secret program of training and acquiring weapons to have mounted any kind of resistance.  It was in fact impossible. The combination of German Nazi hatred and organization and Jewish defenselessness and fatalism was a lethal formula.

Yet, where there was a possibility of active resistance, as in the Warsaw Ghetto, and other ghettos, it did arise, Jews fought and sacrificed themselves rather than being simply murdered.  As a source for this I refer to “Flags Over the Warsaw Ghetto” by Moshe Arens.   It was clear that the acquiring of weapons, refused by the Polish National Army, was a limiting factor.  An early narrative of Jewish resistance was “They Fought Back” by Yuri Suhl.  And there was Jewish partisan resistance, as exemplified by the story of the Bielski brothers (see “The Bielski Brothers” by Peter Duffy and the movie “Defiance“).  Also in Western Europe, Jews played a major role in the resistance, for example in France, Suhl (p.181-3) estimated that up to 20% of the members of the French resistance forces (the Maquis) were Jews, including many refugees from Eastern Europe.  On the other hand an acquaintance of mine, Jerzy Lando, who wrote a memoir entitled “Saved by my Face,” because he was a blond Aryan-looking Polish Jew who spoke fluent German, told me, “if you think there could  have been resistance, then you have no idea what it was really like.”

There is a supreme irony in the fact that the Holocaust, the murder of 6 million Jews out of the 11 million in Europe targeted for annihilation at the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in Jan 1942, gave such an impetus for the establishment of the State of Israel, as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people.  In reality, the basis for the Jewish State in the British Palestine Mandate, was well-established long before  WWII.  There were successive waves of Jewish immigration, that the British initially allowed under the terms of the Mandate.  Also these Jews were Zionists who had come to establish their State, and the British were not going to deter them.  So there was active anti-colonialist resistance to the British long before WWII and the Holocaust.

Further, David Ben Gurion  declared a policy of supporting the British during the War and opposing them afterwards.  As a result, many Palestinian Jews joined the British forces during WWII mostly in Egypt (while the Arabs mainly supported Germany), and eventually formed the Jewish Brigade.  Although the British disbanded the Brigade after the War, these Jews had received valuable military training, which they used to help defeat the British forces in Palestine and then to form the IDF.  The fact is that Jewish DP’s from Europe began arriving in Palestine only around 1948, by which time the die was cast, the British had decided to leave and the Jews were organized and able to defeat all the Arab armies.  The role of the Holocaust in the establishment of the State of Israel was more of a psychological factor among Jews and a strong public opinion around the world against the British and Arab attempts to prevent Jewish self-determination.  What a pity that this has now been turned around by the clever use of propaganda and PR by the losers.

One largely unremarked contribution of the Holocaust to the establishment of the State of Israel was that the annihilation of such a large proportion of the Jewish people (ca. one-third) removed a largely pious, religious and anti-Zionist element from the Jewish population.  Also, the pre-war international “brotherhood” (communist and socialist) or religious arguments against Zionist aims to re-establish a modern Jewish State were untenable in the face of what had actually happened during the War.  Anne Frank’s beautifully expressed liberal views, that have been used so effectively as propaganda by modern anti-Zionists, were written before she was denounced, arrested and brutally murdered without food, water or shelter in a Germans camp.

The Origins of Israel

Those Western liberals and leftists who accept the Palestinian narrative, that the Jews established Israel by “stealing” their lands, are being sold a simplistic view of history.  It is necessary to go back before the Israeli War of independence of 1948 to understand the true origins of Israel.

After WWI in various conferences, at Versailles, Locarno and Sevres, various treaties were negotiated by the victorious allied powers that redrew the borders of Europe and the Middle East.  For example, Italy was given the German-speaking Southern Tyrol that had been part of Austria.  But, US President Wilson was intent on making sure that areas of the defeated Turkish Empire would not be gobbled up by other imperial powers, specifically France and Britain. This was in fact the liberal, anti-imperialist view.  It is not generally known that Wilson also refused American Mandates for either Turkey or Armenia in order not be become embroiled in ancient territorial conflicts.

A French diplomat came up with the idea of “mandates” to satisfy Wilson.  These would be areas under British or French control, but that were designated to be eventually transferred to the self-government of the local peoples.  So for example, in 1922 the League of Nations (precursor to the UN) gave France a Mandate over Syria, and Britain Mandates over Mesopotamia and Palestine.  It was explicitly stated that Syria and Mesopotamia (Iraq) were to be Arab states and Palestine was to be a Jewish “homeland.”  But France reneged at first on allowing Syrian Arab home rule and they also unilaterally created Lebanon, to protect the Christians.  Although the Palestine Mandate said nothing about an Arab State, Britain unilaterally established Transjordan (later Jordan) and later in 1938, stopped allowing Jewish immigration to Palestine as required by the Mandate.

So if we look at the facts, it was Pres. Wilson who insisted that Britain not incorporate Palestine into its Empire, but was to hold it for some time until the Jews were able to become self-governing and sovereign.  It was indefensible that Britain prevented Jewish emigration from Europe into Palestine just when Nazi Germany started its program of persecution and genocide against the Jews.

After WWII it was not the Arabs but the Jews of Palestine (at that time numbering ca. 650,000) who fought and defeated the British Empire and forced them to turn the Palestine problem over to the UN.  After many debates, the UN proposed a Partition Plan in 1947 to separate what was left of Mandatory Palestine into two States, Jewish and Arab,  The Jews accepted and established Israel, but the Arabs rejected the Plan and attacked.  It is important to note that none of the belligerent Arab States (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia) had any plans to establish a Palestinian Arab State at that time, they intended to capture Palestine for themselves (replacing the British).

It was only because Israel defeated these Arab States time and time again in their attempts to conquer the Land that they eventually gave up and the problem became a  Palestinian Arab problem.  So actually it was only after the defeats of the Six Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973, that the Palestinian narrative was born and twisted into an anti-colonialist leftist story.   If you don’t believe me consult a reputable independent history book.  I don’t expect anyone to be pro-Israel, but I do expect people to be honest and base their views of what actually happened, not on some simplistic propagandistic slogans.

The UK is a Racist Endeavour

After the British Labour Party was forced to compromise on its position regarding anti-Semitism recently, hard left elements in the Party plastered London with posters reading “Israel is a racist endeavour.”  Not only was this a case of being bad losers, but it also represents the fundamental view of the Corbyn side of the Party.

Of course, one can argue that Israel is racist because it does not choose to commit suicide and allow the so-called Palestinian Arabs to take over its Land and kill its Jewish inhabitants.  But, aside from that, most countries have been founded on what can only be called racist agendas.  Here are a few examples,

  • Australia decimated and massacred the Aborigine inhabitants who had lived there for thousands of years
  • New Zealand subjugated the Maoris
  • White South Africa decimated the Blacks and now the reverse is happening
  • Sweden subjugated and persecuted the Sami (Lapp) people
  • The US committed genocide against the native American (Indian) tribes and persecuted the Blacks under slavery and even until today
  • Russia defeated the Tartars and subsequently persecuted them and destroyed the Siberian cultures
  • For centuries the French and Germans fought over Alsace-Lorraine and hated each other
  • Hungary and Austria fought each other, as well as Hungary and Roumania, and Poland and Russia, and of course the Germans hated all of them
  • The Arabs decimated and forced all minorities that were within their various Empires to convert to Islam
  • The Chinese conquered Tibet and have persecuted its people
  • The Burmese have massacred the Rohingya (Muslim) people and expelled hundreds of thousands to Bangladesh
  • The UK conquered and suppressed the Welsh, the Scots (called euphemistically “the Highland clearances”) as well as massacring the Irish and denying them sovereignty until very recently.  And that’s not to mention the many terrible crimes the British inflicted on the many native  peoples in their Empire around the world, some of which still exists.

Since almost every country has a history of racist conquest, suppression and persecution, why is it that the British Labour Party singles out Israel for such a public lambasting.  If they only single out Israel, isn’t that a clear case of anti-Semitism.  Whereas in fact Israel is a stable, liberal democracy.  They should put their own house in order before they point the finger at others.