Revising History: NY Times Op-Ed Promotes Pappe

The past few weeks have witnessed a deluge of articles, op-eds and features surrounding the 60th anniversary of Israel’s independence. Many of these have focused not on Israel itself but on the Palestinian “Nakba” or “Catastrophe”. We do not deny that Israel’s celebrations look very different from a Palestinian perspective. However, too many times, revisionist history has been employed to portray Israel as the sole cause of Palestinian suffering and the instigator of “ethnic cleansing”.

HonestReporting has recently critiqued this issue extensively in an op-ed by Johann Hari in The Independent and a BBC documentary “The Birth of Israel”. Now The New York Times has belatedly jumped on the bandwagon with an op-ed by Elias Khoury:

No one wishes to hear the Palestinian story. Their history has been written by the victors: Israel has thus succeeded in blotting out its “original sin,” as the French author Dominique Vidal referred to the situation. Were it not for the courageous voices of Israeli “new historians” like Ilan Pappe, the world would not have come to admit that a people had been expelled from their land in a comprehensive ethnic cleansing operation, given the name “Plan D” by Israelis.

As documented by CAMERA, Ilan Pappe has long acknowledged that he is not objective and cares little about factual accuracy. He readily admits that ideology drives his historical writings and statements. And his ideology can be simply summed up: Israel is illegitimate and should be the target of international sanctions until it is dismantled as a Jewish state.

Another of the “new historians” lauded by Khoury is Benny Morris. Morris, however, reviewing one of Pappe’s books, stated that Pappe

believes that there is no such thing as historical truth, only a collection of narratives as numerous as the participants in any given event or process; and each narrative, each perspective, is as valid and legitimate, as true, as the next. ….

Morris maintains that “much of what Pappe tries to sell his readers is a complete fabrication” and quotes Pappe himself to explain the “multiplicity of mistakes on each page” that is a product of both Pappe’s historical methodology and his political proclivities:

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. This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied not the occupiers; and sides with the workers not the bosses. He feels for women in distress, and has little admiration for men in command…. Mine is a subjective approach…. (Ilan Pappe)

Regarding the charge of “ethnic cleansing” as part of “Plan D”, many Israel-haters are fond of citing Pappe and Morris to back up their claims. Morris, however, sets the record straight in a letter to The Irish Times:

Most of Palestine’s 700,000 “refugees” fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders).

There was no Zionist “plan” or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of “ethnic cleansing”. Plan Dalet of March 10, 1948, was the master plan of the Haganah – the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces – to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq duly occurred, on May 15.

It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies’ invasion routes. And it is also true that midway in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the “refugees” (those “refugees” who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential fifth column and threat to the Jewish state’s existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic.

Please make use of the sources and information in this communique and send your considered comments to The New York Times – letters@nytimes.com

RECOMMENDED READING

In an article in Commentary magazine, historian Efraim Karsh takes a fresh look at the events of 1947-48 and categorically refutees the “ethnic cleansing” charge:

The recent declassification of millions of documents from the period of the British Mandate (1920-1948) and Israel’s early days, documents untapped by earlier generations of writers and ignored or distorted by the “new historians,” paint a much more definitive picture of the historical record. They reveal that the claim of dispossession is not only completely unfounded but the inverse of the truth.

Read the full article here.

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