Last night, in my appreciation of Pete Seeger I wrote about the Weavers mega-hit, Tzenah. I noted the fullsome praise of the new Zionist nation that characterized its lyrics. I also noted that, at the time, neither Seeger nor many others outside the Arab world understood the deep injustice that had been done to the Palestinian inhabitants of Israel during the Nakba.
Today, Mondoweiss published an amazing passage from a talk Seeger delivered in Cambridge in November 1967, only a few months after the Six-Day War. In his remarks, you can see how Pete’s thinking had evolved and he’d come to understand everything he’d missed back in 1952. This is a mind that is nimble and sharp to moral and political nuance (audio here):
“I said if the Israelis would admit the injustice that was committed when they decided that they would start a new nation where a million people already lived. Uhh … Vermont is approximately the size of Israel…Vermont has 400,000 people in it. There were one million farmers and small townsmen in Palestine at the time the Zionists decided that this was where they must establish a national home …”
“… Now, in many ways I agree with them that after 2000 years of never being allowed to be a first class citizen, anywhere! Not in Spain, not in France, not in Germany, not in Russia, not in Poland, not in England … not in America! The Jews had a right to wanna find one little spot on this Earth where they could be first class citizens …”
“At the same time, not to realize that there were one-million people there, I think was very foolish. Why didn’t they insist that every new settler learn the Arab language? Why didn’t they? Martin Buber said they should, but they didn’t listen to him.”