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Reader comment on item: Palestine Betrayed

Submitted by myk (Pakistan), Feb 7, 2013 at 15:35

In a book titled "Palestine betrayed" the author presenting himself as the Professor & Head of Middle East & Mediterranean Studies at King's College University in London tackled number of issues. These were presented, according to the author, from both Arab & Jewish perspectives.

To my disappointment however, the book is as far as it can get from a neutral let alone a historical or an academic point of view. The author's points are summarized below as well as my responses which for the great majority of it, will be using and quoting other Jewish and Arab historians and intellectuals:

1. Author claims the right of occupation since they were in a state of self-defense against the Arab invasion.

The UN Resolution on the Partition gave Israel 56% of the country. As a result of the 1948 war and by early 1949, Israel expanded to include 78% of Palestine.

In 1967, Israel occupied all of Palestine and parts of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

The author leads readers with the old Zionism's old school of thought that Jews were faced with Arab violence and opposition based on anti-semitism which is simply not true[1].

The author also failed to refer to the Knesset at the time when it passed, on 22 September 1948, the Area of Jurisdiction and Powers Ordnance (5708-1948) by which it officially added to Israel's size all land it had captured since the war began. It also declared that from then on, any part of Palestine captured by the Israeli army would automatically become part of Israel[2]. The author didn't also mention that Israel has never given an official definition of its boundaries (which is the reason why Ben Gurion refused to formulate a constitution for Israel)[3].

One would also expect some reference to the many UN Security Council Resolutions. The famous one of 242 of 22 November 1947 emphasizing on the inadmissibility of acquisition of territories by war also slipped the author's mind.

Karsh referred also to Balfour Declaration (November 1917). Though issued by a European Power offering a non-European territory, it is also true that the declaration viewed the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people "in" Palestine and not "of" Palestine.

2. Towards the end of the book, the author concludes that May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of Israel was more a scramble for Palestinian territory than a fight for Palestinian national rights.

To claim right of occupation because State of Israel was in self-defense contradicts with the conclusion that the author reached towards the end of his book i.e. Arabs betrayed Palestine because they had political and territorial interest in the Arab part of Palestine (according to the UN partition) and didn't come to its rescue (as the title of the book suggests).

In confirmation to his conclusion above, he provided evidence and details on an agreement stipulating that no attack to take place on Israel's part of land as per the partition. Such an agreement on non-interference can only conclude that Israel had thus no threat to its existence.

3. The author claims that majority of migrants arrived the country three decades preceding the first World War not as individuals but as members of a national movement seeking to restore Jewish sovereignty in Palestine.

An article on "Jewish Emigration in the 19th century" by Shmuel Ettinger[4] indicated that "the effect of political discrimination on migration is attested to by the increase in the number of emigrants after each new wave of programs. Migration from Russia increased greatly after the expulsion from Moscow in 1891 (in 1891 some 111,000 Jews entered the United States, and in 1892 137,000 as against 50,000-60,000 in previous years). He continues that "in worst program year, from mid 1905 to mid 1906, more than 200,000 Jews emigrated from Russia (154,000 to the United States, 13,500 to Argentina, 7,000 to Canada, 3,500 to Palestine and the reminder to South America and Several West and Central European countries).

It is also enough to refer to the famous Jewish historian Simon Dubnow who wrote in 1898 his famous letter: "During seventeen years of tens work to encourage substantial emigration, after the expense of vast means and with the help of millions donated by Rothschild, we managed to place on the land of Palestine only about 3,600 settlers, which make up approximately 211 people per year".[5]

4. The author attempts to manipulate data and statistics in different parts of the book implying higher number of Jews in the country especially at the early 1920 and 1930s.

The majority of population in Palestine was always for the Arab Palestinians. According to Edward Said in "The Question of Palestine", the Jewish population in 1931 was 174,606 against a total of 1,033,314.

5. The author claims that Palestine was a land without a people. It was a country ready for anyone to grab it after the end of the British Mandate

I take the readers as well as Karsh himself back to 1897 when two rabbis visited Palestine at a time when a Jewish homeland was still in pursuit, that the message sent back by them to Vienna read "the bride is beautiful but she is married to another man[6]". As Karsh understands well, the message (bride) was in reference to the well-established and deeply-rooted Palestinian society existing in the land that the Jews wished to claim as their own at the time.

5. Karsh claims that Palestinians left their homes upon orders from Arab leaders. As such Israel bears no responsibilities for their return, or compensation.

- The work of Benny Morris established that Palestinian refugee problem was born as a direct result of war. In his book "Birth of Palestinian Refugee Problem: 1947-1949", Morris identified reasons for exodus to be mainly due to 1) military assault 2) expulsion by Jewish forces and 3) Hagana/IDF whispering campaigns i.e. psychological warfare 4) fear of Jewish attack or of being caught in the fighting 5) imminent attack after the fall of a neighboring village and lastly 6) abandonment on Arab orders.

- Morris who is considered a leftist critical of the Zionism colonialism and expansion ideology, said in an interview with the Ha'aretz journalist Ari Shavit in 2004 that Ben-Gurion should have finished the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians "great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians". "If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country ….. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake".

In the same interview he stated that "a Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population".

- In addition to the above Jewish voices, there are other Arab voices who documented the developments of 1948 and beyond. I would recommend "The Question of Palestine" for Edward Said. The works of Constantine Zurayk, Arif al-Arif and Walid Khalidi are also highly recommended. Trying therefore to shift the blame elsewhere against the established sources of evidences can't simply pass.

6. The author also goes as far as claiming that "Jewish authorities went to considerable lengths to convince them to stay" (i.e. Palestinians leaving Haifa). He also claims that Arabs enjoy full civil and political equality in the democratic state of Israel

We have already established through the work of other reliable Jewish historians the inaccuracy of the above. In addition, Israel until now refuses the return of refugees. A part from many illegal practices, Israel continues with the expropriation of lands until now.

I can also refer to a court decision for instance just to illustrate one example which affirmed the right of the Palestinians (Israeli citizens) in Iqrit and Biriim to return to their homes which was later blocked by the Israeli government from enforcement since 1951[7].

The author also missed to point out to the fact that Israel holds the record for ignoring United Nations Security Council resolutions (according to San Francisco University political science professor Steven Zunes). Another reference could be seen in "Deliberate Deceptions (1998, pages 192-4) by Paul Findleys.

8. Karsh also claims that Jews were by far outnumbered by the strong Arab armies who came to throw Jews to the sea.

In fact, the opposite was the case i.e. numerical superiority of Israeli's at all stages of the conflict was quite evident. According to Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim[8] ".. that throughout the conflict Israel had the military edge over Arab adversaries". The report continues "As far as the military balance is concerned, it was always assumed that the Arabs enjoyed overwhelming numerical superiority. ….. but in mid-May 1948 the total number of Arab troops, both regular and irregular operating in Palestine was under 25,000 whereas the Israel Defense Force (IDF) fielded over 35,000 troops. By mid-July the IDF mobilized 65,000 men under arms and by December its numbers had reached a peak of 96,441. The Arab states also reinforced their armies but they could not match this rate of increase. Thus, at each stage of the war, the IDF outnumbered all the Arab forces arrayed against it, and, after the first round of fighting, it outgunned them too".

The above argument goes along Zionism version of viewing Jews as victims which is why it was important to stick to the version of Jews' vulnerability and numerical inferiority.

9. Not sure why the introduction of the author was made brief only to indicate that he is a Professor and Head of Middle East Studies at King's College University in London

Despite the usual acknowledgment that any error in the book is the responsibility of the author, it is also true that I, as a reader, purchased the book based on the above introduction.

One though can't help but wonder why did the author not mention that he was born, raised and earned his university education in Israel. Or why did he not indicate that he served for seven years as an intelligence officer in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) where he attained the rank of major.

Final Word

From the above, one concludes that Efraim Karsh is attempting to re-write history about 1948 war through distortion and fabrication of facts. In simple terms, the Zionist memory about the 1948 events needs to be re-constructed i.e. to enable the Jews to forget what they once knew[9]. With the exclusion of sources of evidence though, this book stands a good example of the political rather than historical claims about the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem.

With the above in mind, the author was indirectly advocating for the right of occupation, promoting particularism and exceptionalism being imposed by the power of force not by power of laws. The book was all about transcending laws.

Political claims controlled all issues reviewed in the book from refugees, Jerusalem as well as borders. There was of course no indication to issues like deportation, demolition of homes and other collective punishments, confiscation/expropriation of Palestinian land, the apartheid wall, illegal settlements and Israel's continuous refusal to abide by UN Security Council resolutions).

My final comment would be in reference to Akiva Eldar in quoting the former Mazpen member Haim Hangebi in the Israeli Daily Haaretz on August 8, 2003 who said "If Israel remains a colonialist state in its character, it will not survive. In the end the region will be stronger than Israel, in the end the indigenous people will be stronger than Israel"[10]

[1] The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict by Jews for Justice in the Middle East

[2] Ref: 1948 Arab-Israel War encyclopedia or www.israellawresourcecentre.org.

[3] Ref: Dr. Salman Abu Sitta, Military Aspects of the Expulsion, 7 August 2001

[4] The article by Shmuel Ettinger reprinted with permission from "A History of the Jewish People" edited by H.H. Ben-Sasson and published by Dvir Publishing House

[5] Politics of Palestinian Demography by Yakov Faitelson, Middle East Quarterly, Spring 2009.

[6] "Married to another Man" by Ghada Al-Kharmi

[7] The Denied Inheritance, Palestinian Land Ownership in Beer Sheba by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta

[8] The War for Palestine: Rewriting The United States and Israeli-Palestinian Conflict History of 1948. Cambridge University Press, 2001, 79-103

[9] Forgetfulness for Memory: The Limits of the New Israeli History by Joel Beinin

[10] Ludwig Waltzal's review for Married to Another Man: Israel's Dilemma in Palestine

Warm Reg

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