April 27, 2011

Martin Buber, the kibbutz movement and "socialism" in Israel

I was in a chat on a message board recently and I mentioned, in passing, that I doubted the sincerity of Martin Buber's so-called bi-nationalist zionism. I couldn't quite remember why I doubted it but it had to do with a story I heard about how Martin Buber came to occupy the former house of Edward Said's family.  I just googled "Martin Buber" "Edward Said" and I eventually found this little gem, in Peace News, by Uri Davis:

Like Buber, one of my father's relatives (Leon Roth), was a professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem at the time. He also witnessed the atrocities committed against the Palestinian Arabs in the name of the "Jewish State". Unlike his colleague Buber, however, he resigned his post and returned to Britain. 

Buber, on the other hand, sold out. In 1963 he had this to say: "I have accepted as mine the state of Israel, the form of the new Jewish community that has arisen from the war. I have nothing in common with those Jews who imagine that they may contest the factual shape which Jewish independence has taken." (Martin Buber, "Israel and the Command of the Spirit", Israel and the World, p257.) According to Edward Said, prior to 1948 the Buber family were tenants of the Saids in Jerusalem. They paid their rent for their house in the wealthy mixed Arab-Jewish Talbiyya Quarter to Edward Said's father. Sometime towards 1948, a tenant-landlord dispute erupted between Mr Said and Professor Buber, and the case was taken for adjudication before the British Mandate court. Buber lost the case and had to leave the premises. 


  • At the door, after returning the keys to Edward Said's father, Buber turned round and said: "Mr Said, you just wait. I will be back." 



  • Buber: comeback kid
    The war that began with the Israeli declaration of independence in 1948 ended in 1949 with the expulsion of approximately 75 per cent of the indigenous Palestinian Arab populations from some 400 Arab localities that came under the control of the Israeli army. 

    In the armistice agreements between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jerusalem was partitioned and Talbiyya was ceded to Israel. In consequence, the Said family were classified under Israeli law as "absentees", their rights to their properties in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel were nullified and vested with the Israeli Custodian for Absentees' Property. 


  • Immediately after the war Buber was as good as his word. He returned to take residence in the Saids' house in Talbiyya, now as tenant of the Custodian. He lived there for the rest of his life. (Uri Davis, op cit, p54.) 




  • Against the backdrop of the continuing Israeli denial of the rights of the 1948 Palestine refugees to return, and the occupation since 1967 of the West Bank and teh Gaza Strip, Martin Buber's "Epilogue" in Paths in Utopia makes for an almost surreal reading. 
    Read on for an article exposing the sheer hypocrisy of Martin Buber and the whole of the kibbutz movement for which he was something of an ideologue.

    I should point out for those who go a-googling some more, that as with the Joan Peters hoax there are many zionists outlets trying to make out that the Buber/Said saga never happened. On that matter, here is Edward Said.

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