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Deleuze in his essay, The Grandeur of Arafat, writes:

Zionism, then the state of Israel, will demand that the Palestinians recognise its right. But the State of Israel will never speak of Palestinians but of the Arabs of Palestine, as if they found themselves there by chance or in error. And later, they will act as if the expelled Palestinians came from outside, they will not speak of the first war of resistance that the Palestinians led all alone.

Since they haven't recognised Israel's right, they will be made into the descendents of Hitler. But Israel reserves the right to deny their existence in fact. Here begins a fiction that has had to stretch further and further and to weigh on all those who defended the Palestinian cause. This fiction, this wager of Israel's, was to make all those who contest the de facto conditions and actions of the Zionist state appear as anti-semites.

It is a historical fact that the Palesinians were in existence long before Israel took root in Palestine. A fact that was taken into consideration by The League of Nations that awarded Palestine a Class A Mandate recognising that their development was such that their claims to self-determination was to be honoured. A promise that was betrayed by the then mandatory power, Britain who had no intention of honouring it.

Now, the denial of this fact is no small part of Zionism but a central part of its mythology and repeated at the highest levels. For example, Golda Meir in a 1969 interview with the then Sunday Times editor, Frank Giles, stated:

There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either Southern Syria before the First World War and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestine people and we came and threw them out taking their country from them. They did not exist.

What makes this 'fiction' even more reprehensible is that as Deleuze points out in the preceding paragraph in his essay:

The United States and Europe owed reparations to the Jews. And they made a people, about whom the least could be said, is that they had no hand in and were singularly innocent of any holocaust and hadn't heard of it, pay this reparation. It's there that the grotesque begins, as well as the violence.

How are we to understand this central 'fiction' of Zionism politically? To call it part of the founding myth of Israel seems singularly careless and merely buying into their narrative. Even myths have a kernel of truth. But there is no truth to this founding 'fiction' at all.

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    "It is a historical fact that the Palesinians were in existence long before Israel took root in Palestine.": no, it isn't. There were no Palestinians before 1940 or so, when they were made up by European powers to use as a lever against Israel. Before that, they were just Syrians or Jordanians. Nothing was "taken" by the Jews; they moved in and bought land. They suffered a lot of ethnic and religious persecution. Eventually, they rebelled against Syria/Jordan much like the US rebelled against England, and formed a democratic government. Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 17:40
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    Arabs/Muslims in Israel are freer than anywhere else in the Middle East, and wealthier than anywhere else that doesn't have oil money. They would be safer too, except for terrorism from other Arabs/Muslims. The hatred for Israel is caused by the fact that Israel proves once again the power of economic freedom for lifting people out of poverty. By it's very existence, it is an argument against the totalitarian governments preferred by white intellectuals. Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 17:44
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    @DavidGudeman You are citing myth # 5. vox.com/2015/5/14/18093732/israel-palestine-misconceptions "Palestinians began developing a distinct national identity in the early 1800s".
    – J D
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 18:38
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    @DavidGudeman @J D. The question is philosophical; the discussion and the answers are not. Such a division is a common occurrence on this site. Outside the question itself, the back-and-forth is more of a historical review. Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 22:02
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    First of all: It may be Deleuze's opinion that Israel is a "Zionist state" but that is not the matter of the question at all. Secondly, if people continue to throw -isms and reproaches of ideology at each other I'll have to assume the community is not able to handle this question properly. Use your votes, focus on the question at hand, and stop writing up stuff that touches the actual question only tangentially.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 10:30

3 Answers 3

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I will answer purely in terms of exegesis, as political opinion has no place here.

First of all, I'm not sure you understood what the fiction Deleuze writes about is. He writes, as per your own quotation:

But Israel reserves the right to deny their existence in fact. Here begins a fiction that has had to stretch further and further and to weigh on all those who defended the Palestinian cause. This fiction, this wager of Israel's, was to make all those who contest the de facto conditions and actions of the Zionist state appear as antisemites.

I short: The fiction of Zionism, as described by Deleuze, is that every person who considers the rights and situation of Arabic persons in the area is automatically denying the right of existence of Israel and an antisemite. Nothing more, nothing less.

The question what this means politically is fuzzy at best. But the baseline is that Zionists won't allow for the rights of Arabic people to be considered at all (according to Deleuze!). Whether modern Israel is a Zionist state as a matter of fact is completely irrelevant here. It is a mere opinion of Deleuze we should not buy uncritically.

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  • After reading and rereading the question, and then parsing your response, I see where I erred in my good faith effort to answer the question. Thank you for modeling an excellent response.
    – J D
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 9:04
  • -1: No, it's not the 'fiction of Zionism'. Zionism is real enough. Nor is it correct to say "Zionists won't allow for the rights of Palestinians (according to Deleuze)". This is exactly the reason why I put in the infamous quote by Golda Meir made in 1969. We also can take into account the accusations of Aparthied made recently by three very well respected human rights organisations: B'TSelem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 3:47
  • I do understand what Deleuze is saying. The central 'fiction' is what I've attested to above. The 'fiction' has been made to 'stretch further and further' is that anyone who contests Israels point of view, or supports the Palestinian narrative is made to look an 'anti-semite'. This allegation has not only been made by Deleuze but by many observers of the Israel-Palestine conflict who are sympathetic towards the Palestinians. Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 3:55
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    @MoziburUllah I merely pointed out that you do mix a philosophical source with a particular set of definitions with a political opinion, blending the two. Deleuze does not write that the fiction is that there are no Palestinians. And the de facto discussion on whether there has been or not has been a Palestinian people at the end of the 1940s is a historical/political discussion, not a philosophical one. Thus, I kept this in philosophical bounds. And don't get me wrong, I am in no way sympathetic towards how the question is handled by Israel rhetorically and politically.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 8:48
  • Political philosophy has to be grounded in political facts. Deleuze actually describes what happened to the Palestinians as genocide. And he does describe the erasure of the Palestinian identity as a central ideological plank of Zionist/Israeli politics. The philosophical question I am asking is how this 'fiction' is to be understood politically? Is it a type of 'noble lie' that Plato advocated for? Or is it a species of totalitarianism given that Arendt suggests that the destruction of the category of truth is part and parcel of that movement? There is ... Commented Apr 19, 2022 at 9:36
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I take it that you are asking about Zionism as a political philosophy, not as current politics. A friend recently said "It all began in 1947", referring to the current Israel/Palestine situation. I agree that historical perspective is necessary, but this is not it. There was an exodus of Jews from Palestine about two millennia ago as a result of Roman oppression. In the late 19th century, European Jews founded Zionism. This was backed by the Balfour Declaration and Jewish emigration to Palestine. At the time, Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire. The UK took over administration in 1919. During the late Ottoman and the British period, Arabs moved into Palestine from Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and other Arab regions. Before Jewish emigration in the 19th century, there was a small indigenous Jewish population. So Jews have lived in Palestine throughout and some Arabs in Israel/Palestine are descended from Arabs who migrated there during the last few generations. So, it is incorrect to say that the state of Israel does not qualify under self-determination. I am afraid that I find your question tendentious and opinion-based.

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There is a deep flaw embedded in this discussion which isn't addressed in any of the comments, which has a significant philosophical component in it, as follows.

A few years ago, researchers working on Egyptian mummies managed to extract the genes of the tuberculosis bacterium from a mummified body, and declared that the cause of death of the human who was then mummified ~3000 years ago had been tuberculosis.

A prominent French postmodernist philosopher (I do not remember if it was Derrida, Deleuze, Lacan, etc.) then jumped into the discussion and declared on first principles that the conclusion on cause of death was wrong- because as everyone knows, the tuberculosis bacterium was not discovered until modern times- which made it impossible a priori for anyone 3000 years ago to have died from the disease we in the present call "tuberculosis". Having thus straightened out the controversy and settled the matter, the postmodernist dusted off his hands and departed the stage.

However, the tuberculosis genes did not thence themselves magically vanish in a puff of logic. Oddly enough, they were still there, and the evidence in hand still demonstrated that they were the reason the mummified man had died- 3000 years before the disease that killed him had a name and a proximate, demonstrable cause.

Now note that saying that "Palestinians" do not exist is not the same thing as saying that the people who call themselves "palestinian" for any reason themselves do not exist. They are still people, they are still there. Depriving them of an identity, as Golda Meir did, does not make their bodies vanish in a clever puff of logic. Nor did it in any way justify their being thrown out, to use Meir's own language.

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    It seems the philosopher was Bruno Latour, his paper is here--just skimming it, it seems his position is not quite the straightforward historical relativism you suggest, he seems to be trying to find some kind of middle way between realism and relativism. One can of course doubt that his notion of a third in-between option actually makes sense, but his position is not as simple as "Ramses couldn't have died of tuberculosis because tuberculosis was only defined in modern times".
    – Hypnosifl
    Commented Apr 15, 2022 at 21:28
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    A middle way, you say? between realism and relativism? I have no idea what that would look like. Can you help? -NN Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 3:13
  • @hypnosifl OK, I skimmed it too, and found it to be pretty much typical Bruno. Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 3:17

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