Facts and Fables: The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Article excerpt

By Clifford A. Wright. Kegan Paul International, 1989. 239 pp. List: $22.95; AET: $19 for one, $22.95 for two.

The most formidable weaponry at Israel's disposal is not found in its military arsenal but in the effectiveness of its army of apologists in the West.

Using the propaganda equivalents of Scud missiles -- poor in accuracy but high in psychological impact -- Zionists have scored successive media hits by relentlessly firing volleys of half-baked truths and outright lies about the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Abetted by an accommodating press that reports Israeli claims with the investigative instinct of a tape recorder, some of the most outrageous fables have become accepted as undisputed facts.

Facts and Fables -- even though it is largely an update of a 1978 out-of-print work entitled Commentaries on Recurrent Themes of Zionist Propaganda on Palestine -- is nevertheless a timely and useful book. Well researched and amply documented, it demolishes 17 of the most common myths still being used today to justify Israeli excesses and belittle Palestinian grievances.

One of the myths that has gained wide acceptance is that the Palestinian exodus of 1948 was largely a result of radio broadcasts by Arab leaders urging Palestinians to evacuate their homes to "make room" for the Arab armies on their way to liberate Palestine. This particular myth has been laboriously propagated by Zionists precisely because if the Palestinians can be portrayed as having voluntarily left their land rather than having fled or been expelled, then it can be easier to argue that they have forfeited their rights to return.

Conveniently overlooked are the facts. In 1961 the Irish journalist Erskine Childers conducted a thorough examination of American and British monitoring records of all Middle East radio broadcasts during the war period. He concluded that "There was not a single order or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from any Arab radio station inside or outside Palestine." On the contrary, Childers found evidence of Arab broadcasts urging Palestinians to stay and defend their homeland against the Zionist invaders.

Another myth tackled by Facts and Fables is Israel's claim to democracy and the supposedly equal rights enjoyed by its Arab population. Beside the absurdity of describing as democratic a country that denies the right to vote to nearly one third of the population it controls (the 1.8 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories), Arabs in Israel are subjected to systematic and state-sanctioned discrimination. For example, 93 percent of the land in Israel -- much of it expropriated from the Arabs -- is controlled by the quasi-governmental Jewish National Fund which forbids the sale of land to "non-Jews."

Orwellian "Return"

Particularly infuriating to Palestinians is the Orwellian-named Law of Return that encourages Jews worldwide who have never set foot in Israel to "return" and receive instant citizenship, while the Palestinian natives expelled from Palestine and now languishing in refugee camps are prevented from ever seeing their homes again. …