The Atlantic, Israel, and Palestine

Our new report is part of a long history of the magazine's coverage of Israel-Palestine

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A Palestinian man waits at a checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah / Reuters

Tomorrow, The Atlantic launches a special report exploring issues in the Israel-Palestine conflict, "Is Peace Possible?", in collaboration with the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace. For The Atlantic, this project builds on a vast archive of engagement with the Arab-Israeli conflict. The magazine was a seminal forum for debating these issues long before the establishment of the Jewish state.

As recently chronicled by Atlantic national correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg, much of the magazine's original coverage of Zionism was defined by "unfriendliness." A prime example is William Ernest Hocking's July 1930 piece, in which he describes the forcing of Jewish sovereignty on the Arab population of Palestine as "an injustice which is inconsistent with the ethical sense of Zionism":

For thirteen hundred years Moslem Arabs have lived here, tilling the soil, caring for their herds, raising their fruits and olives, practising their trades and crafts. Between them and this habitat there is a genuine adjustment, an almost perfect equilibrium; technique and custom, dress and architecture, they transmit from antiquity with an unconscious faithfulness; they belong. The rights which go with this long occupation and use cannot be brushed aside, even though no letter of a British agreement could be cited to confirm them in their place.

Owen Tweedy, in the October 1930 issue, conveyed a particularly pessimistic assessment of Zionism:

Both tenants had what they considered and claimed to be impeccable title to possession; and for the past twelve years they have lived together in a house of discord, each going his own way regardless of the feelings of the other. Incompatibility of temper has been proved, but the situation cannot be eased by divorce. ...

Zionist immigration is out to establish itself in Palestine on lines of its own choosing. On the other hand, those lines are foreign, unintelligible, and antipathetic to the mentalities of the Arab communities that represent the large majority in the country. If no bridge is built, how can these two existing, and mutually repellent, social states grow side by side without endless friction?

... Zionism has lost the idealism which attended the birth of the movement.

But The Atlantic also published quite a few pieces supportive of the Zionist endeavor. A 1919 piece by Henry Sacher, an executive of the World Zionist Organization and a contributor to early drafts of the Balfour Declaration, went to great lengths to justify Jewish nationalism and its inherent connection to the land of Israel:

Rabbinical literature is full of apophthegms that express the positive passion of the teachers of Israel for the soil, the air, the water, the physical being of the national land. 'Whosoever walks four cubits in Palestine is assured of the world to come.' 'It is better to dwell in a Palestine desert than to live in a land of plenty abroad.' 'To live in the land of Israel outweighs all the commands of the Torah.' 'The air of Palestine makes men wise.' 'Even the chatter of Palestine is worthy of study.' 'Palestine is the microcosm of the world.' 'Rabbi Abah used to kiss the rocks of Palestine. Rabbi Chazah used to roll in the dust of Palestine.' The whole doctrine of the rabbis in regard to the national home is summed up in the sentence: 'God said to Moses, "the Land is me and Israel is dear to me. I will bring Israel who is dear to me to Land that is dear to me.' Here is the triple thread which is Judaism -- God, the Jewish people, the Jewish land. What the rabbis taught and felt, the Jewish people believed and felt.

9-11 Ten Years LaterHe saw no contradiction of "the establishment there of the Jewish national home" with "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," who he saw largely as "absentee landowners, who rack-rent a miserable peasantry." He envisioned "a harmonious cooperation between Jew, Arab, and Armenian."

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Zvika Krieger is a former editor and writer at The New Republic and a former correspondent for Newsweek based in Egypt and Lebanon, covering most of the Arab world. More

Krieger has received fellowships to study topics including the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, the Kifaya reform movement in Egypt, public health in Bombay slums, religious identity in Kashmir, historical memory in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, and the role of religion in Lebanese politics. He has also reported from such places as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Libya, North Ireland, Sri Lanka, Japan, and Korea. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Guardian, Slate, New York, Arab Reform Bulletin, New Stateman, Chronicle of Higher Education, Daily Star (Lebanon), Cairo Magazine, Jerusalem Post, Christian Science Monitor, and various other publications, and he has appeared as a Middle East analyst on NBC News, CNN, Fox News, and Air America. His writings have earned him awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Scripps Howard Foundation, and the MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies. He is a fellow at the Truman National Security Project. He has a bachelor's degree in Middle East Studies from Yale University and studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo.

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