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Israel Arab Conflict – GBJ_Hiltermann

Israel Arab Conflict – GBJ_Hiltermann

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Published by Hubert Luns
The Arabs possess 11.6 million square kilometres. That is a huge expanse more than 500x that of Israel. On this vast plain, 20% of world Jewry ask for a piece of land the size of a postage stamp. The Jews in the world are a mere particle. They believe they have the right to a pinhead of space.
The Arabs possess 11.6 million square kilometres. That is a huge expanse more than 500x that of Israel. On this vast plain, 20% of world Jewry ask for a piece of land the size of a postage stamp. The Jews in the world are a mere particle. They believe they have the right to a pinhead of space.

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Published by: Hubert Luns on May 31, 2011
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 Israel surrounded by the Arabs
- They believe they have the right to a pinprick of land -
 
by G.B.J. Hiltermann, a Dutch political commentator and historian(1914-2000); from “Collected Notes from Journeys and Home” - 1974Published by Europese Publiciteits Maatschappij E.P.M. - Amsterdam
On 12
th
October 1969, in his Sunday radio programme “De toestand in de wereld” (TheWorld Situation), which attracts a great many listeners, Hiltermann called the national daily ‘de Volkskrant’ “frankly antisemitic – or at least anti-Israel”. The newspaper sued him for libel. After the newspaper had lost a preliminary summary procedure, during an or-dinary court case it was decided that Hiltermann had to withdraw his allegation, which hedid publicly. At the newspaper’s request the Raad voor de Journalistiek (Netherlands PressCouncil) dealt with the case again but after a year of deliberations declared the complaint  groundless. Hiltermann’s comment on this was “The most prepared, the most qualified, theonly truly expert institute, the Press Council, took my side.” (1) In 1974, after the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, he commented on the affair in his series of publications “Ver- zamelde Notities” (Collected Notes), in which the born Catholic Hiltermann took a sublimelook at the history of the birth of the modern state of Israel. It is this that draws our atten-tion. (In order to make it more readable, parts omitted from this considerably abbreviated text are not indicated.)
1 – Why did the newspaper rush to the law?
The court cases that
de Volkskrant 
initiated against me in 1969 touch on some funda-mental questions with regard to Israel’s right to existence and the nature of antisemitism.It all started – to recall the beginning – when, during a radio programme, I dared to ex- press my astonishment regarding the slovenly, partial and sometimes frankly wrongreporting in
de Volkskrant 
regarding events in the Near East (about the war of attrition being waged against Israel by Egypt and the PLO). A report of this kind in the news- paper’s Saturday edition caused me to make the following remark in my radio programmeon Sunday morning:
“…that de Volkskrant has become the plaintiff for Communism to
 
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 such a extent that this Catholic newspaper has become frankly antisemitic – or at least anti-Israel – and on this point provides information that is entirely false…”
The reaction of this originally Roman Catholic newspaper was remarkable. It took nooffence at the accusation of being pro-Communism. The accusation that it was providingits readers with false information left it cold. It objected only to the accusation of being
“antisemitic”.
And that despite the inseparable addition of 
“or at least anti-Israel”.
Andthe most remarkable thing was that the newspaper immediately ran to all available judges.Why did the newspaper rush to the law? Newspapers seldom call on the aid of the courts.Daily newspapers – and other mass media – generally see to their own affairs. Certainlywhen it comes to mutual differences. The remarkable thing – the characteristic – of themass media is that they can turn to one another and attack one another in full publicity – 
coram populo
. The verdict is spoken by a jury of hundreds of thousands of readers andlisteners. A manufacturer of washing powder, who cannot directly defend himself againstwhat a newspaper or radio programme says about him, seeks out a judge. Why thenshould a newspaper with a reasonable readership turn against a speaker on the radio witha considerable number of listeners via the narrow hearing apparatus and mouthpiece of atrial?If 
de Volkskrant 
had challenged me to a polemic in which I should either prove the truthof my statement or explain it, I would not have hesitated to recognise that I did not intendto qualify the newspaper as ‘antisemitic in the Hitlerian sense of the word’. With myinseparable characterisation of “
antisemitic, at least anti-Israel”
I meant that the news- paper gave reason to seriously suspect it of antisemitic feelings, and if that could not be proven or if it could be shown to be far from the truth, then at least it had an exorbitantlyhostile attitude towards Israel.It seems advisable to me to use a separate qualification for the criminal antisemitism of aHitler, and not to oblige ourselves to ban the word antisemitism because of the memoryof concentration camps and gas chambers. If we were not allowed to use the word anylonger then we would in fact be protecting the antisemitism that still exists. We wouldforce opponents to use euphemisms. We would hardly be able to expose it any more. It isthus more sensible to assume that not everyone who uses the term antisemitism means the pathological, criminal, rabid destruction of Jews as practised by Adolf Hitler and JuliusStreicher.There is another form of antisemitism. There are people, as Professor Philip Kohnstamm(among others) wrote in his magnificent analysis “The psychology of antisemitism”, of them who do not like Jews. Some frankly proclaim it. There are those for whom theJewish accent is unpleasant or who object to the Jewish appearance and sometimes eventhe Jewish way of doing things – or whatever. This is permitted – or at least not for- bidden. But anyone who thinks that way
“doesn’t like them and is against the Jews, isalready an antisemite, one whom we should be allowed so to name without being pu-nished for doing so”.
That does not, however, mean that he is accused of criminal andactive antisemitism, nor even that he strives to limit Jewish influence in society.However no polemics took place. Only the small group of those who read the court proceedings took cognisance of my remarks following on some statements made by myopponents. There is then – to start with – the “Israel is a state like any other” theory. Whyshould it not be permitted to express criticism of Israel? Why should we have to handleIsrael with kid gloves? Israel is, after all – and wants to be – a normal state. I wouldsuggest that this first – apparently undeniable – simplification is not valid in general, be-cause there is no such thing as a normal state. Every state is a piece of regulated society.With civil servants, and therefore bureaucrats, awkward customs officials, disagreeable policemen, terrible taxes and so on… But if we are talking about essentials, every state is
 
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 – still – a sacrosanct institution and even its name carries strong emotional overtones.Almost all states are the highest individual collective expression of illusions and longings,of the potential and history of its people. When he speaks of “La France” a Frenchmanthinks of something different than does an American talking about “the States”.
2 – 
 
 Israel is not a state like any other 
Every state somewhat resembles an artwork. States can inspire people to hefty outpou-rings – and still can. No wonder that Providence was long considered the only founder of states. A state cannot be compared with an association representing the interests of itsmembers. Secular states do not exist, at least not for long. This applies all the more so toIsrael. For more than one reason! The first is that this is an exceptional nation. The Jewish people are not the only ones who have managed for centuries to remain in existencewithout having their own state. That is also the case with the Basques, the Druses, theKurds – and perhaps we should also reckon the Armenians and Lithuanians in this group.However, none of these peoples were scattered. Only the Jewish people were scattered allover the world – as a people in time, as the Spanish diplomat Salvador de Madariaga oncesaid – and yet succeeded to maintain its special characteristics and properties.Moreover the Jewish people have made a fundamental contribution to the foundation of the culture in which we still live. The Christian faith, Christian ethics and the history of Christian churches and their influence on the affairs of the European cultural area cannot be understood without knowledge of the Jewish contribution to the emergence of Chris-tianity. Even now, when Christian beliefs and Christian ethics are undergoing a thorough process of reappraisal, a study of the spiritual contribution of the Jewish people as the basis of our civilization is required. Unlike other nations, the Jews also continue to pro-duce thinkers who contribute to our spiritual wealth. Their theological researchers further explored the antiquity of their religion, which has strongly marked our culture. Oldscrolls, found in the Holy Land, which our eyes also focus on if we want to reflect on theorigins of our culture, have further enriched our understanding.Jews have continued to make important contributions to new philosophies – along thelines of Hasidism and through Martin Buber and Henri Bergson, to the personalism andexistentialism of our era. It is characteristic of the Jewish talent, the Jewish-Dutch scien-tist Henri Prague has said in a convincing presentation, to make a direct link between theindividual self and the greatness of the universe, whether it be God, another person or athing. The Jews have always excelled in making this direct relationship. Which is why its people are a people unlike any other and their state too, an aspect that was again stressedduring the last world war.But much more startling than what happened then, we should call the creation of the stateof Israel, witnessing to an unimaginable will to live and to the vitality of that ancient and persecuted people, that always focused on mental activity with a vitality that we can only perceive in primitives, freeing itself from the ruins of the Second World War and turningthe state of Israel into a viable entity. We can therefore safely say: Israel too is a state.But that does not mean it is a state like any other! In the same sense, on October 21
st
1969there was a headline to an editorial in the liberal daily the
 Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant 
:
“A State with a background”.
With a background indeed.
3 - The official Arab position: Israel must be destroyed 
An important point in the Israeli problem is that here the maxim
audi et alterem partem
– let us also hear the other side – is to be fully respected. Undoubtedly, after the SecondWorld War the Dutch showed little interest in the Arab world. Nor did the Arabs make it

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