Unpeeling history: How an orange debunked Zionism | Omar Hammuda | ISLAM21C | 8 Jan 2023
In this delectable piece, Omar Hammuda shows how the history of the simple yet emblematic Palestinian Jaffa orange reveals the myths of Zionism
There is more to an orange than what meets the eye! Recent online discussions reignited the lie that Palestine was a barren and uninhabited land before the emergence of the Zionist colony.   While this article touches on Palestine’s rich agricultural history, it will show how the simple orange alone can debunk this concocted myth.
An introduction to the Zionist propaganda machine
From the very early stages of Zionism to the present day, Zionists and their sympathisers have promulgated baseless claims that one of earth’s most historically significant lands (Palestine) was, once upon a time, romantically empty and destitute.
This politically convenient rhetoric follows that it wasn’t until Jewish migration and subsequent settlement in the land that Palestine flourished and made its ‘arid’ deserts bloom. To facilitate such outright lies and misinformation, the Zionists adopted a widely cited phrase in Zionist literature:
“A land without a people for a people without a land.”
While the historicity of the phrase appears to be a matter of contention, this slogan persists. In reality, it was never intended to be literal, but rather, purely ideological. It was invented to provide a legal and moral basis for the seizure of the land, the murder and displacement of the native population, and the establishment of a Zionist colony.
An important feature of early Zionist political discourse was that the native population in Palestine were no more than a marginal segment of people who only existed as scattered individuals or only sometimes as communities.
This arrogance and disdain towards the native population becomes exceedingly clear when reading the pronouncements of the early Zionists who wielded this slogan.
After having been promised Palestine by the Balfour Declaration, British author and staunch Zionist Israel Zangwill wrote,
“…for there is no Arab people living in intimate fusion with the country, utilising its resources and stamping it with a characteristic impress; there is at best an Arab encampment.” 
In a similar vein, when former Zionist Prime Minister Chaim Weizmann was asked about the Palestinian Arabs and the Balfour Declaration, he condescendingly mirrored the racist attitudes of his European overlords and responded by stating that,
“The British told us that there are some hundred thousand Negroes (Kushim in Hebrew) and for those, there is no value.” 
In other words, these Zionist leaders did not mean that there were no people in Palestine in terms of territorial emptiness, but rather that there were no people who were worth considering, as they did not constitute a ‘developed’ nation in the most Eurocentric and arbitrary sense of the term. 
Apparently, in the minds of these colonialists, this automatically disqualified its inhabitants from being its rightful owners as they did not transform the land into a fully functioning ‘modern’ nation-state.
For a group of colonisers who have cried wolf for decades, the irony here is extremely stark. The influence and the internalisation of racist European sentiment permeates the Zionist mind to this very day. It is this very attitude that would later form the foundations of the nascent ideological and political movement known as Zionism.
Palestine as a global commercial hub
All it takes is a brief glance at Palestine’s agricultural and economic history to entirely dispel these constructed myths of a dead and desolate land.
As one of the most significant land bridges in human history, Palestine has always served as an important producer of key agricultural commodities across the centuries.
In a detailed description of its land and fertility, 10th century geographer, Shams al-Din al-Maqdisi, testified to Palestine’s agricultural activity and manufactured goods:
“Within the Province of Palestine may be found gathered together 36 products that are not found thus united in any other land … From Palestine comes olives, dried figs, raisins, the carob-fruit, stuffs of mixed silk and cotton, soap, and kerchiefs.” 
As far as cotton is concerned, between the 10th and 13th centuries CE, the fibre formed the bulk of exports that found their way to European shores. 
In fact, its value as a global commodity is clearly reflected in the account of al-Maqdisi, who stressed the importance of Palestine’s cotton production. 
Even the British Consul in Jerusalem, James Finn, could not help but praise the cotton plantations that he witnessed during his travels in Palestine:
“The cotton plantations are beautifully clean and orderly, and the fields from which grain crops had been reaped, are well defined and carefully cleaned.” 
Cotton cultivation and international trade continued all throughout the Mamluk period and eventually reached its peak during the late Ottoman period.  And it is worth mentioning that cotton – a commodity long cultivated in Palestine – formed the backbone of the European industrial revolution, centuries later.  One can even go as far as to say that as a source of raw materials, Palestine played a vital role in driving the European industrial revolution. 
As of today, Sūq al-Qaṭṭānīn (Market of the Cotton Merchants), which is located on the west side of the Haram al-Sharif, continues to serve as a living reminder of Palestine’s historically monumental cotton industry. 
The mighty Jaffa orange
Throughout the ages, the Jaffa orange, otherwise known by its Arabic name, the Shamouti or Abu Surrah (navel), eventually came to outpace all other commodities.
The Jaffa orange – which later emerged as a global brand – was a new variety of orange developed by Palestinian farmers during the first half of the 19th century. The fruit originated as a mutation on a Baladi tree in a city near Jaffa. 
With the decline of its cotton industry, Palestine now had a monopoly over the orange trade, and this increased European economic interest in Jaffa following the aftermath of the Crimean War (1853 – 1856). In turn, this led to the expansion of orange groves in the area surrounding the ancient port-city. 
This was reflected in the exponential growth of orange groves in Jaffa’s vicinities, thanks to their “good quality”, namely the distinct thick peel of the Shamouti that provided it with more protection from disease and rot than its other Mediterranean competitors.  
These groves produced a staggering 33 million oranges per year – one sixth of which were consumed locally – with the rest exported to domestic markets on Greek ships. By 1880, Europe had become the leading destination for orange exports. 
In a 1902 study produced by two Zionist officials, on the impressive growth of the orange industry and its international reach, it nevertheless described traditional Palestinian cultivation methods as being “primitive”. 
Embarrassingly, an in-depth discussion of the costs associated with Palestinian and European proprietors showed that Palestinian cultivation methods were much more cost-efficient than the so-called ‘modern’ Zionist-European ones that were introduced two decades later by Zionist agronomist Yitzhak Elazari-Volcani. 
However, the notions of a “primitive” Palestinian society is still as yet echoed by clueless contemporary Israeli ‘academics’ such as the likes of Benny Morris, whose analysis of Palestinian agriculture is teeming with terms that evoke backwardness and sub-normality. 
As has been demonstrated thus far, the least that is required of these militant Zionist pseudo-intellectuals is to take a brief glance at the historical record in order to learn that Palestinian farmers were the pioneers of the Jaffa orange industry. As a matter of fact, the sub-par nature of early Zionist agriculture was bleakly described by one of the leading pre-state Zionist writers, Ahad Ha’am, who said,
“There are now about ten [Jewish] colonies standing for some years, and no one of them is able to support itself … wherever I strived to look, I did not manage to see even one man living solely from the fruit of his land.” 
“Why then? The real answer, that any clever man in Palestine knows, is that the first colonists brought with them substantial idealism, but they all lack the qualifications necessary for agriculture and cannot be simple farmers.” 
Then, the same cannot be said about the entrepreneurship demonstrated by the Palestinians, who singlehandedly transformed the Jaffa port into a thriving economic, social, and cultural centre through the production and export of its oranges.
Until the very end of the 19th century, this industry was entirely exclusive to the native Palestinians.  Having dominated the orange trade since its inception in the 1870s, the freeloading Zionist colonists only began to join the industry by the turn of the 20th century, beginning in the former depopulated Palestinian village of Fajja – today a part of the Israeli city, Petah Tikva.  
Despite the use of Western agricultural methods in their colonies, they nevertheless relied on the knowledge of Palestinian farmers. 
The first few years of the 20th century saw the economic growth of many Zionist colonies, powered by the citrus industry.  Then, during the Mandate period, the British sought to facilitate co-operation between the Palestinian and Jewish sectors of the citrus industry. 
Finally, with the beginning of the Nakba, Palestinian-owned orange groves were completely usurped and annexed as part of the newly incepted terrorist state of ‘Israel’. Much of the industry’s leading Palestinians were kicked out of their lands. 
Regardless of whether or not Palestinian contemporaries would have thought so at the time, one can interpret the gradual weakening of the Palestinians’ grip on the citrus industry as a stepping stone towards the appropriation of the Jaffa orange as the national symbol of the Zionist state. 
Of course, this reality eventually manifested itself in the wake of the Nakba, in which the Jaffa orange became no more than a faint memory living in the minds of Palestinians.
 N. Masalha (2007) The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-Colonialism in Palestine – Israel, Volume 1. Bloomsbury Academic, p. 45
 Ibid; G. Kramer (2008) A History of Palestine: From the Ottoman Conquest to the Founding State of Israel. Princeton University Press, p. 165-6
 Ibid, p. 173
 B. Doumani (1995) Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900. University of California Press, p. 97
 N. Masalha (2022) Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History. Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 230
 L. Kamel (2015) Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times. Bloomsbury Academic, p. 78
 N. Masalha (2002), op. cit., p. 230
 H. Gerber (1982) Modernization in Nineteenth-Century Palestine: The Role of Foreign Trade. Taylor & Francis, p. 251
 N. Masalha (2022), op. cit., p. 230
 I. Charles (1982) An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa. Columbia University Press, p. 127; C. Ward, et al. (2021) The History of Water in the Land Once Called Palestine: Scarcity, Conflict and Loss in Middle East Water Resources. Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 26
 M. LeVine (2005) Overthrowing Geography: Jaffa, Tel-Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, 1880 – 1948. University of California Press, p. 34
 Ibid, p. 35
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinksy (2021) The Lost Orchard: The Palestinian-Arab Citrus Industry, 1850 – 1950. Syracuse University Press, p. 12
 M. Levine (2005), op. cit., p. 35
 Ibid, p. 34
 B. Morris (2004) The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Cambridge University Press, pp. 17-20
 H. Gerber (1982) Zionism, Orientalism and the Palestinians in the Journal of Palestine Studies. University of California Press, p. 33
 Ibid, pp. 33-4
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinsky (2021), op. cit., p. 18
 Ibid, p. 19
 N. Karlinksy (2000) California Dreaming: Adapting the “California Model” to the Jewish Citrus Industry in Palestine, 1917 – 1939 in Israel Studies. Indiana University Press, p. 26
 N. Karlinsky (2012) California Dreaming: Ideology, Society, and Technology in the Citrus Industry of Palestine, 1890-1939. State University of New York Press, p. 56
 M. Kabha & N. Karlinsky (2021), op. cit., pp. 75-101
 Ibid, p. 118
Open letter to Tony Greenstein, obsessive hunter of pro-Palestinian activists | Redress Information & Analysis | 9 Jan 2023
On 6 January Tony Greenstein published a massive attack on Pete Gregson, the chair of One Democratic Palestine, on both his blogs (here and here). Below is Gregson’s response:
Tony, contrary to your assertion, I am not an anti-Semite. Just like yourself, I am an anti-Zionist.
You misrepresent me and even contradict yourself. It feels as if you have never heard of the Campaign Against Antisemitism, the Community Security Trust, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), Hope not Hate (a misnomer), Labour Against Antisemitism, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Jewish Leadership Council, the three Jewish newspapers, UK Lawyers for Israel, Friends of Israel, Britain-Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) – and, of course, the Israeli government. These are the agencies that are run by Zionists who are also, interestingly, run by people who call themselves Jews – and they are the people who brought down Jeremy Corbyn because of his support for Palestine. But according to your twisted logic, it was the capitalists who destroyed him because he was a lefty and the Zionist Jews were just their pawns. You are oblivious to anything but your pseudo-Marxist analysis.
You published a lie about me on your blogs. You said “Peter has to his credit expulsion from a number of organisations. I initiated the first from Labour Against the Witchhunt when he put up a petition on his website linking to an article by holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom who had written a ‘literature review’ on ‘‘The Auschwitz gas chamber illusion’.”
This is quite untrue. This is what I actually said four years ago: Also see the article “UK’s Labour Antisemitism Split” by Ian Fantom here. Ian organised the Keep Talking group that filmed my talk in the last but one update. (But I must say I think the Kollerstrom article he mentions is quite toxic).
“Hypocrisy, truth-twisting and witch-hunting seem to be your specialty.”
Because you are so obsessed by guilt-by-association – you hate Fantom and you are furious that I referenced him – you persuaded 60 per cent of your pals at Labour Against the Witchhunt to hunt me out; this was a body you had basically set up, after all.
But you can see from the above that it’s not me that gives out links to Kollerstrom’s nonsense about Auschwitz – it’s you! Hypocrisy, truth-twisting and witch-hunting seem to be your specialty.
I never said the Zionists supported the actual gassing of Jews. I said they supported the holocaust by stopping any boycott of Nazi Germany, by making financial deals with the Nazis, by choosing not to warn Jews about the gas chambers, by thwarting efforts to save Jews, by being leading lights in the Judenrat, and by saying that Jewish blood must be spilt if Jews were to get their hands on Palestine. This is all in your book.
“… you throw slurs at pro-Palestine activists because the Zionists do: they stab from the front, you stab from the back.”
The problem is that you’ve become a willing pawn for the Zionists. You live in an “anti-Semitic echo-chamber”, seeing anti-Semitism where there is none, attacking those whom you should be supporting, so keen are you to find Jew-hate. Like the Zionists, like so many “victim-obsessed” people who think themselves Jewish, not much different in that respect to David Baddiel, whom you recently (correctly) took to task. I make observations about many influential Jews in the UK, but I do not harbour any prejudice against Jews in general. You, however, see anti-Semitism everywhere. So, you throw slurs at pro-Palestine activists because the Zionists do: they stab from the front, you stab from the back. The sad thing is that you yourself have not suffered in the storm of imagined Jew-hate that has beset this country. (Yes, you were kicked out of Labour, but not because of bogus anti-Semitism.) I was forced out of the Labour Party, booted out of my union, have been suspended from our local scout group, been ostracised from many causes I care about because I have criticised Israel. And the people who have done this to me, folk like Rea Wolfson, who calls herself Jewish, were behind these attacks on my freedom of speech (I know it was Wolfson – a GMB senior officer was the source). I’ve seen good people brought low, like Chris Williamson and Corbyn, by the same Zionists that have attacked me and who have beaten our politicians, the BBC and the rest of the media into submission, all on the back of our collective holocaust guilt.
We need to be able to have an intelligent discussion about Zionist power in the UK. In 2011 Jeremy Newmark implored, in the “Big Tent for Israel” event, Jews and anybody supporting Israel (i.e. Zionists) to join trade unions and their local political party to mobilise. Then, as soon as Corbyn was elected leader in 2015, Newmark rebadged a virtually redundant Paole Zion, an affiliate body of the Labour Party from the party’s early years, into the JLM and set about recruiting Jews and others who supported Israel. This group was then able to command the debate from virtually inside the party.
Many JLM members secured posts in Labour HQ and in the trade unions. Zionist activists then set about convincing major bodies that Jews were at risk and that the only way they could be protected was by adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. From 2015 to 2018, they largely succeeded. This was achieved through cultivating a hysteria in the media that Jews felt vulnerable without it – Rhea Wolfson, in the Scotsman in July 2018, for example. Wolfson served on Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) and she and Jon Lansman were key in getting Labour to adopt the IHRA definition (more on this here).
Did you never notice that up until 2012 the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media were increasingly fair in their coverage of the Palestinians, a trend that has since been sharply reversed? Did you watch The Promise, broadcast by Channel 4 in February 2011, a series about a young woman who goes to present-day Israel and Palestine, determined to find out about her soldier grandfather’s involvement in the final years of Palestine under the British mandate? Can you imagine such a TV series being made now? No, of course not. Jeremy Newmark introduces his 2011 “Big Tent for Israel” event by arguing for the urgent need to stop criticisms of Israel, for Jews throughout the UK to come to the defence of their ‘homeland’. And he has spectacularly succeeded in this, with a great deal of help from the Israeli embassy, as the TV series The Lobby, proves.
Are you aware that 38 per cent of the BBC’s governing body are now declared pro-Israel or pro-Zionists? The BBC’s political editor was in place at exactly the right time to do the maximum damage. Corbyn was repeatedly skewered by Laura Kuensberg, one of the Glasgow Zionists; she brought him down with help from fellow Zionist, Jonathan Freedland at the Guardian. Kuensberg and other Zionists, calling themselves Jews, rose to their positions of influence in the six years following the “Big Tent for Israel” event. Why on earth would a toff like Rhea Wolfson want to work in a trade union like the GMB, yet she was there at the top in 2018? What on earth was a property magnate like Lansman doing running Momentum? These are the people that drove Labour to adopt the IHRA definition – and they weren’t doing it because they loved the ‘Establishment’. They were doing it because they loved Israel. And they call themselves Jews, too.
You claim I think Jews act as one homogenous mass. I don’t. But 70 per cent of those calling themselves Jews in the UK support Israel. And Israel supports these people. The Lobby makes clear who was directing the attacks on British politicians who were deemed pro-Palestinian. It wasn’t MI5 – it was the Israeli embassy, in league with the Zionists agencies I listed earlier. The fact of the Big Tent for Israel event undermines everything you say. Over the past 10 years there has been a massively successful campaign to entrench Zionism in Westminster – we now have 80 per cent of the Tories and 40 per cent of Labour MPs who are Friends of Israel.
“Your abuse of the word ‘anti-Semitism’ has, alongside the Zionists, made the term increasingly meaningless… You now use it against me because I accuse Zionists of supporting the Nazis, yet you know that the Haavara Agreement showed Nazis and Zionists working together very well.”
Your abuse of the word ‘anti-Semitism’ has, alongside the Zionists, made the term increasingly meaningless. You don’t accept the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the term – “hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”. You now use it against me because I accuse Zionists of supporting the Nazis, yet you know that the Haavara Agreement showed Nazis and Zionists working together very well. The Zionists did nothing to avert the holocaust and declared that “only through the bloodshed of Jews will we get the land, because when the victors will divide the land after the war, then they will give us [the Zionists] the land in return for Jewish bloodshed, and that is what we want”. In my book, this counts as quiet support for the holocaust. They were content to see Jews gassed if they were not heading towards Palestine.
In your self-righteous ranting, you attack campaigners like myself as anti-Semites – but I don’t show “hostility to or prejudice against Jewish people”, I merely observe that most of those who call themselves Jews in the UK are wealthy, influential and they support Israel. I am prejudiced against Zionists – who happen to be Jews, but not because they are Jews. And you are too. But you wouldn’t call yourself anti-Semitic, would you? You think you are above the mudslinging because you think yourself Jewish. You reserve that slander against people like me, who don’t declare themselves Jewish.
I have to disagree with you as well on the Zionist project. It was imperialist and colonial at the outset, but these days it is primarily a Jewish project. If we reflect on the parallels with South Africa, it quickly becomes clear as to why attempts to mount an effective campaign against Israel have so consistently failed. Zionists declare Jews to be a race, and they declare that those who’ve emigrated there since 1917 belong there, that they were ‘returning to their roots’. This is what makes it so difficult to change the status quo, with we anti-apartheid campaigners being branded as ‘anti-Semites’.
Israel calls itself the Jewish state and people in the UK have largely accepted this. That is why BDS efforts are undermined and any move by local authorities to support BDS is soon to be made illegal, as it will be deemed ‘anti-Semitic’. So, matters as to whether Israel really is the Jewish state are fundamental to any question of Palestine’s liberation.
Rabbi Weiss shares my view that Israel is not the Jewish state. He comes from the religious perspective (that they cannot be Jewish for they have ignored the Torah’s ruling on Aliyah) – but I am declaring this from the genetic perspective too: the ‘Jewish’ occupants of the Knesset are Europeans, not Semites. (By the way, you say you are going to write to Rabbi Weiss and ask him to dissociate himself from me. But he has read your attack on his organisation, so I’m not sure he’ll listen.)
“You have become part of the problem, Tony, because you have lost sight of what anti-Semitism is…Can you not see what you are doing with your obsessive attacks on fellow campaigners?… You do nothing but harm to the Palestinian cause with your pointless attacks…”
The Ashkenazis in Israel, who comprise around 50 per cent of the population and are generally mostly in power, originally hail from Kazakstan, and are fundamentally Europeans – it is they who have given Israel its European flavour, so much so that the European Union virtually accepts Israel as a member state. They do this whilst claiming they are of the land, that Jews were given the land by God – sadly, this is an argument that has been generally accepted. In order to fight this, we need to challenge their claim to a Jewish heritage, to their rights to occupy the land. If we do not, we will never win. As far as the dictionary definition of Jews applies, their claim falls flat. The dictionary says a Jew is “a member of the people and cultural community whose traditional religion is Judaism and who trace their origins through the ancient Hebrew people of Israel to Abraham”. But present-day Israelis have rejected the key Judaic precept that there can be no return to ‘Israel’ until the Messiah comes. So, their claim to be followers of Judaism are false. And genetically, they cannot trace their origins to the ancient Hebrew people either; the Ashkenazis rule the roost and they are Europeans, not Hebrews. They ignore key Judaic teachings, with the religious right there just picking out the bits of the Torah they like, that they think justify their occupation. Their claim that God gave them the land is entirely bogus. The true descendants of the ancient Hebrews are the Palestinians, who mostly converted to Islam in the 7th Century – something you yourself have observed.
You have become part of the problem, Tony, because you have lost sight of what anti-Semitism is. I have no problem with Jews, as you well know. However, I do have a problem with Zionists who call themselves Jews, who have done everything possible to cancel my life. And now you have joined them. Can you not see what you are doing with your obsessive attacks on fellow campaigners? Folk like me and Williamson have lost so much for complaining about bogus anti-Semitism, at the hands of people who would do anything to protect their racist colony. You do nothing but harm to the Palestinian cause with your pointless attacks. The only people you are helping are the Israelis. It’s time you woke up and realised that.
Hands off Peter Gregson – For Workers Democracy and Free Debate, not Bundist Heresy-Hunts! – Consistent Democrats]