An enormous thanks to Lawrence of Cyberia for quoting this amazingly clairvoyant piece of writing from Ahad Ha’Am on the Zionist dilemma in relating to the Arabs in its midst. And to think he saw developments so clearly as early as 1891! His thinking on the conflict is so much more penetrating and visionary than the rather obtuse things that Theodore Herzl had to say on the subject: “A land without a people for a people without a land.” [ugh!]
Ahad Ha’Am, seminal Zionist theoretician (credit: Zionismus.info)
“We tend to believe abroad that Palestine is nowadays almost completely deserted, a noncultivated wilderness, and anyone can come there and buy as much land as his heart desires. But in reality this is not the case. It is difficult to find anywhere in the country Arab land which lies fallow; the only areas which are not cultivated are sand dunes or stony mountains, which can be only planted with trees, and even this only after much labor and capital would be invested in clearance and preparation…
We tend to believe abroad that all Arabs are desert barbarians, an asinine people who does not see or understand what is going on around them. This is a cardinal mistake… [When] the day will come in which the life of our people in the Land of Israel will develop to such a degree that they will push aside the local population by little or by much, then it will not easily give up its place…
One thing we certainly should have learned from our past and present history, and that is not to create anger among the local population against us… We have to treat the local population with love and respect, justly and rightly. And what do our brethren in the Land of Israel do? Exactly the opposite! [T]hey behave toward the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, infringe upon their boundaries, hit them shamefully without reason, and even brag about it.
Our brethren are right when they say that the Arab honours only those who show valour and fortitude; but this is the case only when he feels that the other side has justice on his side. It is very different in a case when [the Arab] thinks that his opponent’s actions are iniquitous and unlawful; in that case he may keep his anger to himself for a long time, but it will dwell in his heart and in the long run he will prove himself to be vengeful and full of retribution.”
— Zionist writer Ahad Ha’am, Emet me-Eretz Israel (Truth from the Land of Israel), 1891. Reproduced in Kol Kitvei Ahad Ha’am (Complete Works of Ahad Ha’am), (Tel Aviv, 1946), pp. 24-29.
To read more about this Zionist prophet, I suggest this book of essays: At the Crossroads.