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Who Speaks for Israeli Arabs?

Historians writing about Israel's 1948 fight for independence generally place heavy responsibility for the Palestinian Arab refugee problem on the Arab leaders who urged their people to flee Palestine temporarily until the Zionists were driven into the sea. But not all historians: in the late 1980's, a revisionist school of scholars, benefiting from fresh access to Israeli archival material and politicized by their opposition to Israeli settlement policies, advanced the thesis that blame for the refugees' flight was shared heavily by the country's founders.  In their self-criticism and often ostentatious soul-searching, these "New Historians" exemplified what seems to be an immutable characteristic of the Jewish psyche.

Relevant Links
Charging Israel With Original Sin  Shabtai Teveth, Commentary. What is one to make of the farrago of distortions, omissions, tendentious readings, and outright falsifications offered by the “new” revisionist historians? (1989)
Revising History  Ricki Hollander, CAMERA. The inspiration and driving force behind the academic boycott of Israeli institutions is Ilan Pappé, for whom “the struggle is about ideology, not about facts.”

For Ilan Pappé, a prominent New Historian, soul-searching is beside the point. Best known for his inflammatory The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Pappé, Haifa-born, self-exiled to Britain, invests his energies in promoting the Arab cause in general and the academic boycott of his former university in particular.  Now he is out with a new book, The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel. It elaborates on his view that the Jewish state was born in sin and that this moral deformity is ineradicable.

Pappé's premise is that the Jews had no moral right to assert their case for national self-determination in Palestine because there were Arabs living there.  For the same reason, the Arabs were justified in rejecting every compromise offered, including the UN's 1947 partition plan, because the Jews were "newcomers."  In Pappé's history, the Jews "expelled" over 700,000 refugees and inexplicably—never mind the continuing state of war between Israel and the Arab worldrefused to let them return. 

Pappé's latest polemic focuses on those Arabs who heeded the urging of Jewish leaders and did not flee. He finds it galling "that those who stayed became the 'Arab minority of Israel.'"  (He calls them "Palestinian citizens of Israel," since he abhors the term "Israeli Arabs.")  True, these Arabs were given Israeli citizenship and the right to vote.  But he cannot fathom why they were not treated exactly like Jewswhy their ID cards listed them as "members of the minority community," and why those in rural and border areas lived under military rule until 1966.  

There are dark episodes in the history of the Israeli Arabs, such as the calamity of "Kfar Kassem."  On the eve of the 1956 Sinai war, amid heightened fear of Arab fedayeen activity, an awful miscommunication over wartime curfew orders led to the killing of 47 innocent Arabs by Israeli soldiers. A number of those responsible were punished. Pappé relishes the recounting of this and other isolated disasters.

But there are many more cases that Pappé can place under the thematic umbrella of Palestinian victimization only by ignoring salient facts.  His account of the 1976 Land Day rioting, which left six Israeli Arabs dead, omits noting that the 6,000 dunams of supposedly "Arab land" involved, which were expropriated for a development intended to benefit both Jews and Arabs, were considerably less than concomitantly expropriated Jewish and state lands.  As for the frightening Arab riots of October 2000, unleashed in solidarity with the second intifada, Pappé describes them as a mere "gathering of youths" who were then cold-bloodedly picked off by "police snipers." Pappé is incensed that the Hebrew press did not provide capsule obituaries for the Israeli Arab rioters as it did for their Jewish victims.

The insistence on a narrative of oppression poses difficulties for Pappé.  On the one hand, he insists that the Jews had no reason to view the Arabs among them as a security risk, because "Palestinians by and large accepted Israel as a fait accompli."  Yet he does not want to portray Israeli Arabs as comfortable; thus, while some critics outside Israel have accused them of being too docile, Pappé defends the community's honor.  He reports that some Israeli Arabs have contemplated an "Algerian-like struggle," citing, without hint of disapproval, the "famous case" of the 1969 bombing of a Hebrew University cafeteria by Arabs from the Galilee.  

Even in Pappé's Israel, life is not entirely hellish for Arabs.  He is buoyed (as if this were something new) by the "growing spaces of leisure and pastime"restaurants, coffee houses, and parksthat Arabs and Jews enjoy together.  He does notcannotdeny that Israeli Arabs have achieved success in a wide range of fields.  He himself points out that, despite "latent apartheid," 25 percent of Israel's medical students are Israeli Arabs. But the underlying accusation inevitably, consistently, emerges.  (Yes, almost 10 percent of the Israeli Knesset is made up of Arabsbut none of them sits on the intelligence subcommittee!)  

Pappé's implacable hostility distinguishes him even in the pantheon of Blame-Israel-First revisionists. His friend and mentor, Avi Shlaim, author of Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah and the Zionist Movement (1988), has claimed that Jordan never actually planned to push Israel into the sea and that David Ben-Gurion declined opportunities to make peace with its monarch before the latter's 1951 assassination.  Shlaim thinks Israel's right wing hijacked Zionism on behalf of the "illegal occupation." Yet at least he has described Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, and he opposes anti-Israel academic boycotts.

Similarly, the late Simha Flapan, in The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (1987), charged that the Zionists were somehow responsible for Palestinian flight because, deep down, they did not really want the Palestinians to stay. Yet even Flapan maintains that he never questioned "the moral justification and historical necessity of Zionism."

Indeed, one of Pappé's fellow revisionists has actually reevaluated his position, even if he can't quite bring himself to recant explicitly.  Benny Morris, in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (1989), held both Israel and the Arabs culpable for the refugees' flight.  He called Zionism a "colonizing and expansionist ideology . . . intent on politically, and even physically, dispossessing and supplanting the Arabs."  Morris now says that this description referred to the Zionism of the 1930's, before its leaders embraced multiple plans for partitioning Palestine.  His recent work, One State, Two States, places decisive responsibility for the continuing conflict on the Arab nations, a stance that has earned him excommunication by the remaining revisionists.

Pappé's loathing of Israel allows for no such complications. Pity the student assigned his latest book, and shame on any professor for assigning it.

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Independent Patriot on August 24, 2011 at 9:36 am (Reply)
Revisionist history is part and parcel of the Left. Look at what they are doing to Reagan's legacy never mind what they are trying to do with Margret Thatcher in the UK. There are revisionist who are even trying to rehabilitate Stalin. I am sure soon they will start telling us what a misunderstood guy Hitler happened to be since the Left and their erstwhile Islamist allies agree he got it right about "Jewish control of the world." Ever read a history book in a United States high school? It will turn you gray.

The truth of the matter is that with the state of modern Middle East history courses I am sure Ilan Pappe will be required reading until respected academicians actually do something about it. But then you would hear cries of freedom of academic speech and the like from the Left, who seem to think it is ok to destroy the truth of history to suit their political machinations.

They say history is written by the victor. The irony here is that the Left lost decisively, yet they are still the ones writing the history books and there is no one out there to protest.
shushan on August 24, 2011 at 10:24 am (Reply)
Just because the Israeli govt refers to so called Palestinians living in pre 67 borders as 'Israeli Arabs' does not mean they consider themselves to be Israeli Arabs. they consider themselves to be so called Palestinians and diaspora Jewry has an obligation not to act as enablers for Israeli stupidity and repeat anything Israel says
David Engel on August 24, 2011 at 10:51 am (Reply)
Dr. Ilan Pappe believes that if he tells the same lies over and over again, they will become part of the historical record.

The truth is that "Palestine" was never an Arab state in terms of population. The census taken of Jerusalem (the Old City) in the 1800s indicated that this was a largely Jewish City. A census of Transjordan (which incorporates both Israel and Jordan) in 1898 indicated that more than 1/3 of the population was Jewish.

In 1099 when the crusaders attacked Haifa, it was a Jewish garrison that defended Haifa and not an Arab garrison. There were more than 40 Jewish communities in the area at that time. So Pappe's nonsense about the area being Arab is completely false and a lie.
Danny Black on August 24, 2011 at 11:58 am (Reply)
Except the majority of Israeli Arabs consider themselves Israeli. Even the ones who scream the loudest about "apartheid" get very upset at the suggestion that the future border with their brother in "Palestine" be drawn to include them.
Yekke on August 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm (Reply)
Revisionist history resulted naturally from finding out what happened behind the scenes or on the other side, and it usually upsets the biases that sustained us at the time. The Israeli new historians are all different, not to be discounted automatically. Benny Morris, a New Historian, debunked Pappe's ideological distortions recently in the New Republic. The proper reaction to Kfar Kassem, an Israeli massacre, is to face it and make it a lesson, as the Israeli army did: soldiers must not commit atrocities, even if ordered to do so. Even--especially--soldiers must obey the law.
Jacob on August 24, 2011 at 2:11 pm (Reply)
Ilan Pappe is an "historian" of the Soviet mode. He is a pro-Palestinian propagandist. As he himself said "Facts are irrelevant when it comes to the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts, Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truth seekers," Pappe said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Soir, Nov. 29, 1999. In his book Pappe says:"My pro-Palestinian bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the 'truth' when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. . . . Mine is a subjective approach. . . ."
Spoken like a true disciple of Zhdanov....
Jerry Blaz on August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm (Reply)
All of the stories given as reasons for the large number of Arab people leaving the area in 1947-48 are true. There were those who fled because of fear, some baseless and some based on their particular town or family's history of bad relationships with the Yishuv. While the early explanations by Jewish sources that it was the result of Arab leaders telling them to get out of the way so the Arab armies coming through would not be impeded by attempting to avoid hurting the Arabs of Palestine were greatly exaggerated, there were some calls like that. However, some left in spite of Jewish leaders pleading with them not to leave as exemplified by Abba Hushi, the Jewish mayor of Haifa, who pleaded in vain with many of Haifa's Arabs not to leave. The fact that so many Arabs becoming refugees was made into a psychological cudgel in the hands of the Arab propagandists and keeping these refugees isolated and not giving them the opportunity to integrate into the populations of the Arab countries where they fled, mainly to Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In fact there is a special refugee committee of the UN that still doles out funds to support them.

The Jordanians gave them citizenship and did attempt to integrate the Palestinian Arabs into Jordanian society and economy. Not so in Lebanon, Syria, and to the degree that the Palestinian Arabs got that far, Iraq. In most countries, their dream of coming back was encouraged, the "key" became the symbol of their quest. While the constellation of the membership of the Arab League which directed this campaign has changed, they never overtly reversed this stand. And the problem of the Arab refugee is probably the most successful of the anti-Israeli campaigns that even today, the Palestinian Authority has great hesitations whenever negotiations were carried on and will probably be used as a stumbling block in future negotiations. Its solution is a matter of dollars and good common sense, and let us hope that the latter prevails when the Israelis and the Palestinians resume this negotiation which has gone on too intermittently and too long.
NuritG on August 25, 2011 at 1:32 am (Reply)
Who speaks for these Aabs? The so called Israeli bred "New Historians" who have altered Jewish History and other history, to present lies and bash Israel…..a pox on those traitors

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