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The New Puritans

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  • Rob Schmidt
    http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=33365 First Published 2009-07-26 The New Puritans The Zionists at the end of the 19th century concluded Jewish
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 20, 2009

      First Published 2009-07-26

      The New Puritans

      The Zionists at the end of the 19th century concluded Jewish populations
      would never find acceptance from Christian Europe. They would remain a
      persecuted minority if they did not assimilate and would lose their identity
      if they assimilated, says Dan Lieberman.

      Calculating the Trajectory of the Middle East Conflict

      Defined characteristics steer history to an eventual climax. Unless a
      dramatic intervention occurs, similar historical characteristics forecast
      similar results. If an earlier historical event has a narrative that is
      comparable with the narrative of the Middle East conflict, then the
      trajectory of that conflict can be predicted from the outcome of the earlier
      narrative; not exactly, but within a certain boundary. A corollary exists -
      if a conclusion can be forecasted from an earlier event that exhibited
      closely similar conditions, changing the conditions by intervention can
      modify the directed result.

      Several conflicts have been compared to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
      Each narrative contained claims for land, clashes with indigenous peoples
      and a desire for separation due to fear and insecurity. Each conflict left a
      legacy that deserves consideration. Most prominently mentioned are:

      (1) Apartheid South Africa

      (2) Colonial Algeria

      (3) Northern Ireland conflict

      (4) The American destiny

      (5) The Puritan experience

      Which of these conflicts is most comparable with the Israeli/Palestinian
      conflict? Realizing that the contestants of the 21st century conflict are
      culturally advanced in comparison to the contestants engaged in the earlier
      century conflicts and accounting for different eras and different stages in
      civilization, the most relevant comparison is the Puritan experience. To
      substantiate this assertion, let's start with the principle characteristics
      that defined the Zionist agenda and its development into the Israeli state

      The Zionists at the end of the 19th century concluded Jewish populations,
      due to unique characteristics, would never find acceptance from Christian
      Europe. They would remain a persecuted minority if they did not assimilate
      and would lose their identity if they assimilated. In this no-win situation,
      Judaism and Jewish identity would eventually disappear. Relatively few Jews
      of that time agreed with or followed the Zionist agenda.

      The Zionists sought a Promised Land, the same land that the Bible claimed
      God had awarded to the Hebrews. However, the pioneers did not arrive by
      invoking a phrase uttered by many later immigrants; "The land has been
      reserved for us by a promise from God." Gaining national identity and social
      redemption by social labor and communal life guided their purpose.

      Hardship and failure describe many of the early missions. After near
      failure, a limited success enthused compatriots in the World War I
      aftermath, and immigration to Palestine greatly increased. As immigration
      increased, the original purpose of "achievement of national identity and
      social redemption by social labor and communal life," receded from the

      The early Jewish immigrants to Palestine did not display an intention to
      replace the Palestinians. The land seemed sufficiently empty to accommodate
      a vast number of new immigrants without replacing the local populations. New
      agricultural and irrigation techniques would make the land more productive.
      However, some Palestinians, disturbed by the early intruders, others just
      bandits, attacked a number of settlements. After a few incidents, awareness
      that the Zionists could bring benefits - work and new technology -
      encouraged Palestinians to gradual acceptance of the newcomers. In the
      1920's the pioneering attitude changed and the welcoming attitude
      drastically changed.

      In 1920, after the Zionist population had grown to 60,000 in a Palestine
      composed of 585,000 Arabs, a reporter noted that earlier settlers felt
      uncomfortable with the later immigrants.

      "It may not be generally known, but a goodly number of the Jewish dwellers
      in the land are not anxious to see a large immigration into the country.
      This is partly due to the fear that the result of such immigration would be
      an overcrowding of the industrial and agricultural market; but a number of
      the more respectable older settlers have been disgusted by the recent
      arrivals in Palestine of their coreligionists, unhappy individuals from
      Russia and Romania brought in under the auspices of the Zionist Commission
      from the cities of Southeastern Europe, and neither able nor willing to work
      at agriculture or fruit-farming. "- Zionist Aspirations in Palestine,
      Anstruther Mackay, The Atlantic Monthly, July 1920.

      Israel's development did not proceed from a colonial mission. A search for a
      new land to practice a unique way of life for an alienated group propelled
      the adventure. After 1920, the new immigrants created an insatiable demand
      for land, for coast, for plain and for hill. Land sales dispossessed
      Palestinians who sensed continuous usurpation of their ancient lands and
      destruction of their livelihood. An initial mildly cooperative relationship
      between Zionists and Palestinians deteriorated to each wanting to be rid of
      the other. Soon, Palestine quaked with total war. The Zionists won the
      battle and the Palestinians were directly and indirectly forced to leave
      their ancient lands. The Israeli state continued to use fear and insecurity
      to rationalize separation and extend its territory to more secure
      boundaries. Even those Palestinians willing to cooperate have been
      marginalized. History records the Palestinian people reacting to
      dispossession and fighting to prevent a slow and unyielding destruction.

      How does this narrative compare to other narratives?

      South Africa

      In 1651, the Dutch East India Company established a settlement as a base for
      its ships passing the Cape of Good Hope. An influx in 1687 of a community of
      Huguenots changed the purpose of the base camp. During the following 300+
      years the Protestant colony, together with British and Dutch farmers evolved
      the white population.

      The acquisitive British, seeking control of vital shipping lanes, determined
      the future of Africa's southern region.. The British seized the area in 1795
      and the Congress of Vienna in 1815 recognized Britain's sovereign control of
      the Cape. Discoveries of mineral resources provoked Great Britain to
      incorporate the Cape Colony, Natal, Transvaal, and Orange Free State into
      one nation. On May 31, 1910, the English crown created another dominion -
      the Union of South Africa - precursor to the 1961 creation of the Republic
      of South Africa.

      A nation that contained an estimated 67% black African, 9% colored and 2.5%
      Asian became a state designed for its white population. The new nation
      certified apartheid by a series of laws that started with the Natives' Land
      Act of 1913. The Act initially restricted the Black population ownership of
      land to only 7% of the country. The original Crape Coloreds (not White,
      Black or Indian), who were able to vote, became totally disenfranchised in
      1948, after the Nationalist Party took control of the Union's legislature.

      South Africa started as a colonial enterprise. Colonialism led to a conflict
      between the descendants of white settlers and the native population. The
      conflict was almost entirely due to Apartheid Laws that denied economic and
      political power to the non-white populations. Native populations were
      misplaced and races were segregated. The conflict could only be resolved by
      repeal of the Apartheid laws. In 1994, the repeal occurred.

      The South African experience is often compared to the Middle East conflict
      because of its positive outcome - why can't the former be a guide to the
      other? All oppression of populations have similarities. Nevertheless, the
      characteristics of the settling of the two areas and the nature of the
      conflict are entirely different. There was no colonialism involved in the
      establishment of Israel. There are no civil laws to cancel in order to
      resolve the Middle East conflict. Rather than misplacements, there have been
      population replacements and displacements. Apartheid defined the South
      Africa struggle and sanctions convinced the authorities that changing the
      apartheid laws were preferable to world enmity. Apartheid is a side factor
      in the more complicated Middle East conflict. It will take much, much more
      than sanctions to resolve the conflict.

      The South Africa legacy: The world community can successfully pressure
      nations to discard racial prejudice and grant equal rights to all its


      Algeria, under French rule, was an example of pure colonialism.

      Expanding from a blockade in 1827, caused by an assumed insult to a French
      consul in Algiers, to invasion in 1830, France colonized Algeria. By 1848,
      the French controlled most of northern Algeria, and the Second Republic
      recognized the occupied lands as an integral part of France. Initially
      separated from the new economic infrastructure, native Algerians became
      French subjects in 1856. Nine years later, Napoleon III allowed the native
      Algerians to apply for full French citizenship. Although seemingly
      beneficial., this maneuver had problems; it legalized France's occupation
      and replaced a right to be governed by sharia in personal matters, which
      meant internal conflict.

      After a century of verbal and sporadic warfare, the French National Assembly
      in 1947 approved legislation that created an Algerian Assembly with Muslim
      representation . It was an insufficient gesture. A protracted Algerian War
      of Independence, fought from 1954-1962, resulted in an independent Algeria
      and the retreat of the French colonists to their home country.

      Similar to Israel policies, which strengthened Palestinian identity, the
      French awakened an Algerian national identity. Nevertheless, by being a
      colonial adventure, which brought economic separation, and later tried to
      legally integrate the native population into the French nation, the Algerian
      narrative does not track the Israel narrative. The Palestinians would be
      pleased with an outcome similar to the resolution of the Algerian conflict..
      Israelis prefer that conditions don't change to resemble the narrative which
      forced an Algerian nation.

      The Algerian conflict legacy: Even after a century of struggle, native
      populations can win their right to self determination against a major power.

      Northern Ireland

      Ireland had been conquered and re-conquered several times by English
      royalty. During the turn of the 16th century, England established a central
      government that ruled the entire emerald island.

      Colonization followed conquest. England sent Protestants colonists to Irish
      provinces, mostly to those which would later be a part of Northern Ireland.
      Constant strife culminated in a complicated arrangement by which Ireland was
      temporarily partitioned in 1921 between Northern and Southern Ireland.
      Following a brief war and a treaty between the English parliament and Irish
      representatives, the Irish Free State came into existence as a dominion of
      the British Commonwealth. In 1949, Ireland became a republic and left the

      By being awarded autonomy, Northern Ireland received special consideration
      in the 1921 partition plan. Almost immediately, the Northern Ireland
      Parliament voted to leave the Irish free State and remain as a part of the
      United Kingdom, but with its own parliament. A boundary commission failed in
      its duty and a large minority of Catholics found inclusion in a Protestant
      directed Northern Ireland. The Protestants dominated the political and
      economic life and reduced the Catholics to a struggling minority.
      Discrimination and the desire to unite Northern Ireland with Ireland guided
      the Catholic Nationalists to an armed contest against the Protestant

      Paramilitary groups fought in the streets of Belfast until 1994, when the
      IRA and the Unionist paramilitary groups agreed to a truce. According to
      Cain Web Service, between the years 1969 and 2001, 3,526 people were killed
      in the conflict. Approximately 60% of the dead were killed by IRA
      supporters, 30% by Unionists and 10% by security forces.

      A 1997 peace agreement between the antagonists approved the formation of an
      Assembly elected by proportional representation. Considering the violence
      preceding the Good Friday power sharing arrangement, Northern Ireland has
      had relative calm. The Assembly has been suspended on several occasions, at
      one time for four and one-half years. Some violence has occurred. At the
      July 2009 Protestant Orange parade, "approximately 23 police officers were
      injured, numerous vehicles were hijacked, burned and pushed towards
      officers, and shots were fired at police. Rioters, approximately 200 of them
      youths, threw gas bombs, bricks, bottles and other missiles at the police.
      In turn, the police fired plastic bullets and used water cannon to disperse
      the crowd."

      'Peace walls,' which are kilometers of concrete and wire barricades that
      began to be erected during the 1970's in the city of Belfast, still separate
      Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods. Sound familiar?

      The Northern Ireland experience has key words that relate to the Middle East
      conflict - partition, militias, immigrant pioneers, separation wall,
      violence, terrorism, religious strife, nationalism, and two cultures finding
      themselves together and wanting to separate. An end to the strife resulted
      in two viable and adjacent states at peace with one another. Ireland is
      composed of one ethnicity. Northern Ireland combines two ethnicities which
      have tacitly resolved their differences and are willing to share power, an
      arrangement that parallels not what is, but what could be in the Middle
      East. Many perceive the path of the Irish conflict as the route to resolving
      the Middle East conflict. However, characteristics of this route weren't
      formed and didn't combine in the same manner as in the Middle East.

      The Irish conflict proceeded from a colonial adventure that happened 400
      years ago.

      The principal conflict was between the Irish and the English government.

      The United Kingdom guided the resolution of the conflict.

      Refugees and land seizures were not principal factors in the conflict.

      Economic injustice mostly characterized the conflict.

      Partition didn't create two new nations. It created an Irish Free State as a
      self-governing dominion of the United Kingdom and allowed Northern Ireland
      to separate and join the United Kingdom.

      Rather than refugees being created by exclusion, Catholic refugees were
      created by inclusion in Northern Ireland.

      Northern Ireland has its own Assembly but is an integral part of another
      nation - the United Kingdom.

      The Northern Ireland legacy: Disparate cultures and religions can compromise
      their differences and function as one nation.


      Settlement of the Americas seems to more closely parallel the Israel
      narrative. Adventurers of many types sought a new life in a new world. A
      nation's military superiority conquered a continent and pioneer fear
      destroyed the native populations. The American story of coast to coast
      expansion is well known, but the narrative is too magnificent, too
      complicated, and too controversial to make comparisons with the Israel
      narrative .The United States of America transitioned from settlements to a
      British colonial adventure, to the American Revolution, and to a new nation.
      The new nation started with a constitution, contained slaves, fought many
      wars, both external and internal, had excessive, rather than scarce, land
      and resources, welcomed immigrants of all races and religions, and
      considered itself to have a manifest destiny that superseded the pretensions
      of all nations.

      The American legacy: Seemingly harmless incursions can lead to great
      tragedies, especially when nations perceive themselves as exceptional.


      A small congregation of Puritans differentiated themselves from their
      co-religionists by being unwilling to reconcile their independent
      organization with the established Church of England. Desiring to preserve
      their identity and feeling constantly persecuted, they sought new places to
      live their unique social and communal life. In the year 1621 they concluded
      they would never be accepted in Europe and sought an opportunity in America.
      They were called the Separatists and because they made a voyage on the
      Mayflower to what they termed 'their Promised land,' (not a land promised to
      them) they became known as the Pilgrims.

      The Separatists had no intention to uproot native communities they
      anticipated they would encounter. Because they did not know that a series of
      contagious diseases resulting from contacts with European fishermen on the
      Maine coast had reduced Native populations, the Pilgrims concluded the area
      was sparsely populated and land was available. Due to the plagues, the land
      was sparsely populated, but the entire area was controlled by the Pokanoket
      Tribe and Federation, led by Chief Massasoit. After being wary of the
      newcomers to his territory, Massasoit came to highly regard the English. The
      huge Mayflower boat, perceived as a 'walking island,' iron plows, muskets
      and other material goods entranced the Indians and they saw themselves
      benefiting from a cordial relationship with the Pilgrims.

      After word reached England that the Pilgrim adventure, which had several
      times been near failure, had finally succeeded, due principally to Pokanoket
      assistance, other English - Puritans, entrepreneurs, adventurers, merchants,
      farmers - booked passage to the New England. They and Pilgrim descendants
      acquired an insatiable thirst for land and detoured from the Separatists'
      original mission.

      "The Pilgrims bought their land from the Natives, but the Natives expected
      to continue to use the land's resources. The colonists built fences where no
      fences had ever been before, closing off their property to make the land
      their own. Tensions had long existed due to the two cultures' different ways
      of life. Colonists' livestock trampling Native cornfields was a continuing
      problem. Competition for resources created friction. Regional economic
      changes forced many Natives to sell their land." Nathan Philbrick,

      The Pokanoket Indians became fearful of losing all their land, agriculture,
      and fishing rights. Their fear and insecurity generated fear and insecurity
      in the Puritans. After 40 years of a peaceful and helpful relationship, both
      sides contemplated a future without the other. Massasoit's son, who gave
      himself the name of King Philip, felt betrayed by the Puritans and started a
      14 month war to drive out the English - a war for survival, which he almost

      Fourteen months of attacks and counter attacks devastated New England. The
      Puritans survived, but many of the area's tribes lost their homes, their
      culture, and their way of life. Within a century, "Indians of cape Cod had
      been reduced to several hundred people, most of them living on reservations
      in the towns of Mashpee on the Cape and in Aquinnah on Martha's Vineyard.
      The Sakonnets dwindled from about four hundred (survivors) to six men and
      nineteen women by 1774."

      The Puritans arrival in America, which eventually became the Massachusetts
      Bay Colony, and their fatal encounter with the native population, set the
      stage for the settlement of the entire coast to coast territory. Insecurity
      and mistrust guided the relations between what became a nation of Americans
      and the indigenous populations. Superiority of US military forces enabled
      American pioneers to move inexorably from the Atlantic to the Pacific
      oceans. Wherever the Americans arrived they found native peoples. Wherever
      they settled, the native peoples, even those who cooperated, like Chief
      Joseph and his Nez Perce tribe, were decimated.

      The Zionist Jewish narrative closely follows the Separatist Puritan
      narrative. The early years of the development of the nation of Israel
      parallels the Puritan experience in America. Let's hope the trajectory will
      be detoured and the Israelis don't prove to be the New Puritans.

      Dan Lieberman is editor of Alternative Insight, a monthly web based
      newsletter. Dan's many articles on the Middle East conflicts have circulated
      on websites and media throughout the world. He can be reached at:
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