Friday Night, Saturday Morning

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Review of 'The Myths of Zionism', John Rose, Pluto £14.99

There is little argument today against the idea that to be a Palestinian is to be oppressed on a daily basis. This is in sharp contrast with the once popular view on the left that the state of Israel could be seen in a socialist light due to the collectivist kibbutz settlements. There is, however, a profound need for clear theoretical analyses of the current situation and the history that led us to this bloody position.

There can be no even-handed response in a conflict that pits a military state armed to the teeth by the US against stone-throwing Palestinian teenagers. Yet many still try to reconcile justice for the Palestinians with a belief that a Jewish state in Palestine is justifiable.

John Rose has selected ten myths used in defence of Zionism. He explains why and how each is used, and then cites an overwhelming number of sources to prove that they have no authenticity. The book's bibliography is perhaps the most comprehensive list of resources on the subject, reflecting the author's lifelong practice of fighting and arguing against Zionism. Following this path leads to only one possible conclusion - that it is Zionism that is the problem, and without its removal there can be no peace in the Middle East, no reconciliation between Jew and Arab.

John Rose also consciously negotiates the possible traps that can accompany an anti-Zionist stand. For example, in arguing that Israel has been a protégé of the Great Powers (first Britain and then the US), the idea that there is a Jewish lobby in the US is tackled head-on. Most recently the 'Jewish lobby' theory has surfaced in the idea that the Jewish neoconservatives at the heart of the Bush administration dictate policy towards Israel - or in the more extreme conspiracy theory that 9/11 was orchestrated by Jewish fanatics. But Washington's policy in the Middle East is dictated by US, not Israeli, strategic needs. In fact President Nixon 'delighted in telling associates and visitors that the "Jewish lobby" had no effect on him'.

There is a spark of hope in the past, in hidden histories. Jews have enjoyed a long history of cohabitation with Christians and Muslims in the Muslim countries of the Middle East and North Africa. In Israel today over 1 million Jews come from Muslim countries - indeed, Baghdad was considered as a Jewish spiritual centre for many years, before the European Jewish communities reached their numerical height.

Forgotten documents written by Jewish merchants, scholars, craftsmen and others found in an 11th century synagogue in Cairo describe the lives of Jews in the Islamic Arab world. These documents tell us of houses and shops held in partnership by people of different religions. Maimonides, the most famous Jewish philosopher of the Muslim world, noted his legal approval of this situation, advising that the gains made on Fridays go to the Jews, and those on Saturday to the Muslims.

John Rose has provided the movement with an excellent book to undermine the foundations of the conflict in Palestine.