PAECH'S OPEN LETTER TO A DISCERNER OF ANTI-SEMITISM
Professor Dr. Paech is emeritus professor of constitutional and international law at the Hamburger Universität für Wirtschaft und Politikthe. He has written widely and is the author, with Gerhard Stuby, of a large textbook on power politics and international public law in international relations. His open letter, translated into English below, and also to be read in German , was to the director of a Holocaust centre and professor of pedagogy, Mischa Brumlik, he who discerned anti-Semitism in the German translation of After the Terror. The open letter appeared in the small-circulation publication junge Welt. It had been offered first to the Frankfurter Rundshau, the German newspaper that carried the original revelation by Brumlik. That paper, said to be liberal, declined to publish Paech's open letter, but subsequently published a reply to it by Brumlik, of which no translation is available. The Frankfurter Rundshau , which has carried something like 25 pieces on the controversy, has also declined to publish something by me correcting one of them.
Dear Colleague, Prof. Brumlik,
The reason for my writing to you now is based on an event that took place sometime ago. It cost me considerable time and effort to obtain that book which was taken off the market by Suhrkamp Publishers because of your intervention. In the meantime I have read it and do not wish to simply close it without commenting on your accusation of anti-Semitism. This (general) accusation has infested the debate about Palestine and Israel like a virus hindering, deforming and undermining all critical discussion about the situation there, which has developed into a catastrophe. The criticism against Ted Honderich's book, has elevated this accusation to a curious excess.
The further I ventured into the material of After the Terror, the more doubt I had about whether you had actually read the whole book. I hope that immediate applause of the media - apparently equally uniformed and illiterate - and the reaction of the Suhrkamp Publishers did not encourage you to feel that the further study of this text would be superfluous.
The central anchoring point of your attack against Honderich's book which consists of three quotes, is his conclusion shortly before the end of page 236, that "I, for my part, have no serious doubt,.... that the Palestinians, by means of Terrorism against the Israelis, have made use of a moral right". This sentence is indeed considerably problematic. However, it finds it's exact context in the book, in the following sentence, which you do not quote: "They have a moral right, which is no less valid than that of, for example, the African people in relationship to their white slave-owners and the Apartheid state". I hope that you do not also wish to accuse Honderich of racism. Or does the comparison between Israel and the Apartheid State disturb you? If this is the case, then you should remember the close co-operation between the two states not only in the field of their nuclear capacities, but also in the conceptualisation of the restriction of their Black, respectively Arabic, populations.
On page 160, the (basic idea of this) sentence is already introduced by the conclusion that, "Our definition of terrorism does not exclude the possibility that, some terrorism may be justified as a reaction against what is seen by others, as structural authority". As examples, Honderich names the "terrorism which lead to the founding of Israel, or to a new South Africa after Apartheid and to a society that treated the Catholics in Northern Ireland more fairly, and looking even further back in time, to the founding of the USA itself.....".
This book is not specifically about Jews, Israelis or Palestinians, but about Terrorism in all it's variations, from suicide attacks, bomb attacks to state-terrorism. Terror in Palestine is merely quoted as an example. For example on page 158, where Honderich explains his definition of terrorism: " It leaves the possibility, that there was a justification for the specific terrorism which led to the existence of the state of Israel, open". You had no objection to this passage. This was also the argument of Yitzhak Schamir in 1991 in which he referred to the Israeli struggle before the founding of the Israeli state, which defended Terrorism "as a method of fighting that can, under certain circumstances, be acceptable". "Armed conflict is generally not justifiable, except when it serves political, national or social aims.......if these aims and means are just, then so is armed conflict". (Frankfurter Rundschau v. 7.9.1991) While making this statement, he may well have thought about the 22nd of July 1946, when his predecessor, Menachim Begin, ordered the resistance movement Etzel, to blow up the south wing of the luxury hotel "King David" in Jerusalem, which housed the headquarters of the British Mandatory Government, thereby killing 91 people.
Honderich is referring therefore to the justification of both Jewish as well as Palestinian acts of terror, a fact that apparently escaped you. This justification is however, according legal criteria, as unacceptable as that of any other kind of terror, even if it is understandable for political reasons. International Law, which is in such questions the only measure with universal validity, gives us at least in the judgement of Terrorism, a relatively firm basis: it states that Terrorism in all it's variants discussed here, is criminal and cannot be legitimised. This is also valid for the kind of Terrorism generally legitimised by Honderich: "Terrorism in the service of liberation, that is a terrorism which is driven by the will to freedom and autonomy of a people, and particularly when it is clear that no other means will grant him freedom and autonomy". (P. 236)
Although Honderich roundly rejects "terrorism for humanity" because "in our present world, there is no realistic hope for a Terrorism in the name of Humanity", his conceptual blurriness shows itself to be disadvantageous when he combines two so different categories such as morality and law (legal Right) to form something as insubstantial as "moral right" and when he couples liberation movements as defined by international law with illegal terrorism in the name of humanity, to form a "terrorism of liberation". Here lies the central problem with Honderich's moral philosophy. Terrorism can never be legitimised but it should be strictly separated from legal liberation movements.
In the mid 70's these military Liberation Movements were recognised by the UNO as a legal Form of resistance against colonial and racist oppression and expressly included in this, was the armed movement of the PLO. All forms of terror, that is violence against civilian population and civilian organisation, were excluded. The unfortunate term "Terrorism of Liberation" carries the same contradiction as the concept of "moral right". Liberation Movements (as for example of the Palestinians, Angolans, citizens of Mozambique, South Africans, the Saharouis or the Kurds, etc) are legal and have no need of a particular morale justification. They are in agreement with a really universal conception of morality, in as far as such a thing exists. All Terrorism, which is legally defined as criminal, cannot be justified morally. Today, in the areas of War and Peace, each contradiction between Morality and Legality, is decided in favour of Legality. At best one could debate about whether an armed struggle can be recognised as a Liberation Movement - in all events, an attack on civilian organisations and civilians is forbidden. This was valid for the Jews before the founding of the state of Israel, during which Honderich stood side by side with Begin and Schamir, as he admitted in an interview, as well as later for the Israelis after 1948 and similarly for the Palestinians. Their right to armed resistance is restricted by International Law only to military installations and personal. Apparently, also the Jewish settlements in the occupied areas belong to these categories because they have been defined as temporary military outposts by the High Court in Jerusalem.
All this has nothing to do with Anti-Semitism and is in urgent need of an open, professional debate.
Likewise, the data and facts given by Honderich on pages 48-53, concerning the history of the Jewish settlements and the Jewish-Arabic acts of terror which in no way favour Israel. They are hardly contestable. Towards the end of the section (page 53) he once more touches upon the taboo: "As things are at the moment, Zionism was justifiably denounced as racist." You also quote this sentence as evidence of anti-Semitism. Others are offended by the preceding sentence: "As the
principal victims of Racism throughout history, the Jews appear to have learnt diligently from their oppressors". Sentences such as these, in view of their reference to the German genocide and their ability to create false associations, are for us prohibited. In view of the permanent condemnation of Israel regarding it's disregard for Human Rights by the UNO and the racist segregation of Palestinians on both sides of the green line, we must accept that there are sentences which point to truths which cannot be banned from intellectual discourse in the manner which you are practising.
Some days after the Zionist Resolution was passed by the UNO in November 1975, the New York Times wrote that," The most hurtful point of the UNO resolution about the equating of Zionism with Racism is that it contains an element of truth". That is what Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi in principle confirms in 1992, two years before the retraction of the UNO resolution, in his text, “Reflections on the history of Zionism and Israel": "The Zionist settlers felt as though they were lords in a new Old World.... They were a small minority in Palestine, like a Diaspora, but unlike the Diaspora situation, the majority of the population was not dominant (in authority).... Before the Jewish settlers came to Palestine, they were outsiders in Europe. Here however, they were Europeans and lords who enjoyed a technological advantage over a passive, weak and poor, native populace. Missionary zeal, settlement and the founding of a State, lead them consequently to the contradictions, which according to Maxime Rodinson, would create racism and war: "The wish to create a purely or mainly Jewish state in an Arabic Palestine in the 20th Century, could only lead to a typically colonial situation and the.....development of a racist consciousness and in the final consequence, to a military confrontation."
Rodinson does not say that Zionism is a form of racism, but he does say that it necessarily creates racism - and in this judgement of Israeli society he is certainly not on the side of Neo-Nazis. Nor does he, with this statement, encourage any anti-semitic sentiments. These do not require, as we know, any historical-scientific sources. To accuse such statements of anti-Semitism creates a prohibition against intellectual discourse, thus placing a taboo over the relationship between Israeli state ideology and racism and violence which nullifies such discourse as unthinkable and which thereby finally helps to immunise the politics of the present Israeli government. Those persons who, "misuse this taboo to support Israel's racist and genocidal policies towards Palestinians, do nothing other than insult the memory of those Jewish victims, whose death, from a humanistic perspective, may have meaning in as far as it is an eternal warning to humanity against all discrimination, racism and genocide." This final sentence would serve you as evidence of the omnipresent anti-semitism and in particular of left-wing anti-semitism. It was written however, by Ran HaCohen of the Tel Aviv University, literary critic of the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.
I ask myself what indeed motivated you to argue with the hammer (act with such harshness). Were you disturbed perhaps by Honderich's blunt view, which is also tabooed here in our country, that next to Milosevic, Reagan and Thatcher, Ariel Sharon should also be called before a real court of justice for criminal acts against humanity? (page 198) You are abruptly cutting off a (historigraphical, political, scientific) discussion, which in view of the worldwide expansion of terrorism, should be conducted in all controversy and without taboos. Are you aware of the fact that such executionary censorship of thought could give new impulse to anti-semitism which undoubtedly exists in our society? Your intervention leads us astray and is profoundly unenlightened. I am therefore extremely pleased that another publisher is preparing a new translation and publication of this book, so that an unacceptable situation within democratic scientific culture may be terminated.
In view of the broad public meaning of this discussion, I intend to treat this text as an open letter.
TO The Fall and Rise of a Book in Germany
TO Brumlik's original open letter
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