19 thoughts on “Dersh: Zionism Came to Rid ‘Holy Land of Disease’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. I see you won’t cut any slack for Dershowitz, but you will always do so for the Palestinians. When he quotes Brandeis as saying they wanted to rid Palestine of disease, you extrapolate and say he is inferring that the Arabs are the “disease”, even though the quote continues and says the Jews wanted to live in peace with the Arabs. On the other hand, when the Sabeel Christian Palestinian militants say “just as they crucified Jesus 2000 years ago, they are crucifying the Palestinians today”, you get quite agitated when people draw the natural conclusion that they are referring to traditional Christian antisemitic claims of nefarious Jewish behavior, claiming that they are not saying that at all (then what is that they are saying?).

    1. I credit Dersh with having something like a Freudian slip in which he appears to be claiming that Brandeis saw Zionism as a way of ridding Palestine of disease. But perhaps lurking in the back of the Arab hater’s mind is a slightly darker unconscious thought.

      the quote continues and says the Jews wanted to live in peace with the Arabs

      Not quite, Dersh doesn’t quote Brandeis. He merely states that Brandeis believed Jews could live in peace with Arabs. I suppose Brandeis might’ve believed this possible. But trusting a Dersh claim of what someone believes w/o going directly to the source can be dangerous.

      when the Sabeel Christian Palestinian militants say “just as they crucified Jesus 2000 years ago, they are crucifying the Palestinians today”

      You know the rules here. If you wish to claim someone has said something you provide the actual name of the person who said it and an online original source that documents the quotation. This is getting tiresome, B.K. If you can’t provide a credible source for this quotation we’ll chalk it up to your overactive pro-settler imagination.

      1. The biggest single weakness of the Zionists argument is this “wanted to live in peace with the Palestinians” nonsense. Every indication is that, from Herzl onwards, the Zionists intended ethnic cleansing. Some of them were careful about saying it in public, but many were not.

        As we know, one cannot use the words of any Palestinian without hoots of derision, but Benny Morris is an enthusiastic Israeli and presents no such problem. He was extensively used by Mearshimer and Walt to prove the Zionists always intended transfer.

        See how Morris has tied himself in knots on p.35 of http://hbpub.vo.llnwd.net/o16/video/olmk/setting_the_record_straight.pdf One feels sorry for him, he did all this careful “New Historian” work without realising the enormous damage it was going to do. His arguments now are in flat contradiction of what he wrote then.

      2. Richard, see:


        A quote:

        In his 2001 Easter message he stated, in part:

        As we approach Holy Week and Easter, the suffering of Jesus Christ at the hands of evil political and religious powers two thousand years ago is lived out again in Palestine. The number of innocent Palestinians and Israelis that have fallen victim to Israeli state policy is increasing.
        Here in Palestine Jesus is again walking the via dolorosa. Jesus is the powerless Palestinian humiliated at a checkpoint, the woman trying to get through to the hospital for treatment, the young man whose dignity is trampled, the young student who cannot get to the university to study, the unemployed father who needs to find bread to feed his family; the list is tragically getting longer, and Jesus is there in their midst suffering with them. He is with them when their homes are shelled by tanks and helicopter gunships. He is with them in their towns and villages, in their pains and sorrows.

        1. Let’s compare the passage you quote in the comment above with the original passage which you placed in quotation marks as if Ateek had spoken them:

          “just as they crucified Jesus 2000 years ago, they are crucifying the Palestinians today”

          A search of the web for this exact passage turns up nothing. So why did you place it in quotation marks? Did you mean to say this is what you think Ateek believes? If so, the quotation marks make the passage deliberately misleading.

          Second, nothing in the passage you quoted from Wikipedia shocks or disturbs me at all. It does not say that Israel is ‘crucifying’ Palestinians (as you claim) though it does talk about Palestinian ‘suffering’ and compare it to Jesus’. But ‘suffering’ and ‘crucifixion’ are 2 quite diff. terms, though perhaps they’re conveniently the same for you.

  2. There’s a good chance that the ‘disease’ reference is to malaria, but Dershowitz is without doubt a toxic lying scumbag. Can I say that without getting you in trouble?

    1. “His most important contribution to Israel’s establishment was in turning Zionism from a theory alien to many American Jews into a pragmatic program to rid the Holy Land of disease, to increase its agricultural production and to make it feasible for European Jews to live in peace with their Arab neighbors.”

      It doesn’t make sense, because the European Jews that were transferred to the Holy Land were probably infected with far worse diseases due to the absolutely shocking conditions they had to endure during the holocaust. Obviously, American Jews didn’t know this at the time which is why Dershowitz boasts that “without Brandeis’s advocacy, the United States would not have supported the establishment of Israel.”

      “When the Nazis invaded Poland, they hoarded the Jews into Ghettos within the major Polish cities like Warsaw and Lodz. The conditions in the Ghettos were atrocious. Many of the Ghetto inhabitants died of disease, exposure, and starvation. The Ghettos were used in Poland for most of the war.”

      In the concentration camps, “…if they did not starve to death they fell prey to the various diseases that were rampant in every concentration camp throughout Nazi occupied territory.”

      “Some diseases that were present in the camps are as follows, Typhus, Typhoid, Dysentery, and Tuberculosis…[in] massive amounts.”

      “There were many large epidemics of disease during the Holocaust, including one large one of Typhus in June of 1942 in Auschwitz.”

      Had American Jews known this, Brandeis’s advocacy would have fallen flat on its face.


  3. Yah, I am no fan of Dershoshitz, but I think Brandies was speaking hear of actual disease…malaria as Michael suggests…

  4. I was going to say exactly the same thing as Michael — that Dershowitz probably really did have malaria in mind (that after all was the land that the JNF actually bought and didn’t steal). Oh, and, yes, Dershowitz is a toxic lying plagiarizing scumbag.

  5. I just found an interesting review of a book about Brandeis.


    The salient quote from that article concerning what Richard wrote is this:

    “One reason Brandeis was so enthusiastic about Palestine, especially after he visited in 1919, was that he saw in it a blank slate for Jews to create the kind of democratic, egalitarian society he was working for in America”.

    “Blank slate”? Disease (Palestinians vs malaria)?

    There was NOT a blank slate in Palestine unless one wanted to make it blank, rid the country of it’s Palestinians.
    This is the very argument Zionists were able to sell (the land was blank) to gain support, and it was at it’s core a LIE.

    Therein lies the problem.

    Best explanation I have heard, in order to create a Jewish DEMOCRACY, one had to rid the country of it’s Palestinian inhabitants and ACHIEVE and maintain a Jewish demographic edge.

    Last time I checked, American law doesn’t allow for this thought to even enter the lexicon of it’s value system “liberal chief justice” label or not.

    Brandeis either hallucinated or flat out lied. Dershowitz on the other hand if what Richard’s interpretation is true, is just loose lipped, albeit, a loose lipped “scum bag”

  6. “But even if we avert our eyes from the obvious inference that the Arab inhabitants of the Holy Land might be the “disease” which Zionists wished to remove from the Holy Land,”

    I find it fascinating how a quarter century effort to eradicate malaria and cholera by drying swamps at great cost of lives can be turned into a…war crime. Just like that.

  7. bar kocha, you quote Sabeel Christian Palestinian militants as saying “just as they crucified Jesus 2,000 years ago, they are crucifying Palestinians today”.

    If I were a Palestinian Christian, I would likely feel like Israel, or at least the IDF, was “crucifying” my people, just look at the Gaza massacre several months back and the continuing sadistic blockade. A lot of Christians use the language of the crucifixion/passion (among other narratives)in navigating their experience of the world, particularly when it comes to their pain and suffering.

    As a Christian, I (personally) don’t particularly relate to this, I think the language of the cross should stick with Jesus’ passion, or this historic Roman method of execution for that matter, but I understand how it is part of Christian metaphor and symbolism, and I “get” its use in this context.

    The first clause of your quote is more troubling, “just as they crucified Jesus 2,000 years ago”. Unfortunately, this reductionist reading of the gospel accounts of the crucifixion remains all too prevalent among a good many Christians, including & especially in the West. This simplistic and misleading take on the crucifixion, stupid on so many levels—one being that Jesus and his merry band were Jews and thus the whole us/them paradigm is completely ridiculous right out of the starting gate—is very widespread on the Christian right, and especially among your allies, the Christian Zionists. Liberal Christians, who are much more likely to be highly critical of Israel and even behind BDS, generally do not share in this old gloss & canard.

    Re-hashing old-school Christian anti-Semitism may be fun, bar kochba, but it’s basically a distraction from the matter at hand of this blog post. You’re fighting old European “Western Civ” battles with little relevance to the contemporary Middle East and Palestine/Israel.

  8. On a more relevant note, I sure hope that Der Dersh is an embarrassment to most of his Harvard colleagues.

    He’s definitely down at the more unhinged pole of the Israel boosters, a scary deranged man. Let’s just say if I were a Palestinian school-child, I wouldn’t want to run into him in a dark alley. That level of hatred for people he doesn’t even know I would think would be hard for one man to bear. If Israel wiped out half of the West Bank (I’m loathe to even speculating about such an unimaginable horror), I am certain that Der Dersh would find a way to rationalize and celebrate the event.

  9. Brandeis might be considered an early example of liberal democratic willing to make an exception of the middle east.[ Dershowitz being the example of where this can end — the thick edge of the wedge, as it were, now that the Israeli establishment is no longer even pretending to liberal values. ]
    Just before his visit to Palestine Brandeis had a chat with Balfour in order to clarify the British position in the Versailles negotiations. He was particularly concerned to prevent the Wilsonian “self-determination of peoples” being applied in Palestine.

    From Felix Frankfurter’s notes on the meeting —

    As an American he [Brandeis] was confronted with the disposition of the vast number of Jews, particularly Russian Jews, that were pouring into the United States year by year. It was then that by chance a pamphlet on Zionism came his way and led him to the study of the Jewish problem and to the conviction that Zionism was the answer. The very same men, with the same qualities that are now enlisted in revolutionary movements would find (and in the United States do find) constructive channels for expression and make positive contributions to civilization.
    Mr. Balfour interrupted to express his agreement, adding: ‘Of course, these are the reasons that make you and me such ardent Zionists’.
    The Justice continued that for the realisation of the Zionist programrne three conditions were essential:—

    First that Palestine should be the Jewish homeland and not merely that there be a Jewish homeland in Palestine. That, he assumed, is the commitment of the Balfour Declaration and will, of course, be confirmed by the Peace Conference.

    Secondly, there must be economic elbow room for a Jewish Palestine; self sufficiency for a healthy social life. That meant adequate boundaries, not merely a small garden within Palestine. On the North that meant the control of the waters and he assumed that Great Britain was urging the northern boundary necessary for the control of the waters. That was a question substantially between England and France and, of course, must be determined by the Peace Conference. The southern and eastern boundaries, he assumed, raised internal British questions.
    Mr. Balfour assented that that was so as to the southern boundary but questioned as to the eastern boundary.
    The Justice added that, of course, the interests of the Hedjaz were involved, but after all, the disposition of questions between the Arabs and the Zionists was, in effect, an internal British problem. He urged on the east the Trans-Jordan line for there the land is largely unoccupied and settlement could be made without conflict with the Arabs much more easily than in the more settled portions of the North.
    Mr. Balfour pointed out that in the East there is the Hedjaz railroad which can rightly be called a Mohammedan railroad.
    The Justice replied that there is land right up to the railroad and Mr. Balfour stated that he thought that Feisul would agree to having an eastern boundary of Palestine go up to the Hedjaz railroad.

    Thirdly, the Justice urged that the future Jewish Palestine must have control of the land and the natural resources which are at the heart of a sound economic life. It was essential that the values which are being and will be created because of the cessation of Turkish rule and due to British occupation and Jewish settlement should go to the State and not into private hands.
    Mr. Balfour expressed entire agreement with the three conditions which the Justice laid down. He then proceeded to point out the difficulties which confronted England. […]
    The situation is further complicated by an agreement made early in November [1918] by the British and French, and brought to the President’s attention, telling the people of the East that their wishes would be consulted in the disposition of their future. One day in the Council of Four, when the Syrian matter was under dispute, the President suggested the despatch of a Commission to find out what the people really wanted. It began with Syria but the field of enquiry was extended over the whole East. Mr. Balfour wrote a memorandum to the Prime Minister, and he believed it went to the President, pointing out that Palestine should be excluded from the terms of reference because the Powers had committed themselves to the Zionist programme, which inevitably excluded numerical self-determination. Palestine presented a unique situation. We are dealing not with the wishes of an existing community but are consciously seeking to re-constitute a new community and definitely building for a numerical majority in the future. He has great difficulty in seeing how the President can possibly reconcile his adherence to Zionism with any doctrine of self-determination and he asked the Justice how he thinks the President will do it. The Justice replied that Mr. Balfour had already indicated the solution and pointed out that the whole conception of Zionism as a Jewish homeland, was a definite building up for the future as the means of dealing with a world problem and not merely with the disposition of an existing community. […] F.F.

    Documents on British Foreign Policy 1919-1939 Series I Vol IV pp. 1276-78.
    Memorandum by Mr. Frankfurter of an Interview in Mr. Balfour’s Apartment, 23 Rue Nitot, Paris, on Tuesday, June 24th, 1919, at 4-45 p.m.

    1. telling the people of the East that their wishes would be consulted in the disposition of their future.

      Wow! How progressive! Self determination defined as the empire consulting the people of the East about their wishes for their own future before deciding it entirely in favour of imperial interests. And how interesting that the definition hasn’t changed noticeably at all.

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