Background of the Palestinian Uprising

Article excerpt

The "Review ofthe Month" in the October 1988 'issue on the Palestinian uprising is certainly right in describing it as "bearing the familiar earmarks of a people's struggle for national liberation." And the brutal response of the Shamir government is a new phase in the national oppression of another people that has been the shame of Israel for more than two decades.

You cite the fact that "on the issue of the Israeli-occupied territories there is much confusion even among those troubled over the policies ofthe Israeli government." For light on these matters you point to the emergence in Israel of "a new revisionist history," which has had available new source material released by the Israel State Archives and the Central Zionist Archives, as well as War Diaries of Israel's first leader, David Ben-Gurion. "A prime example" of this revisionist history-and the only example that you cite-is the late Simha Flapan's Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities (New York: Pantheon, 1987).

I share your high opinion of Flapan, a left socialist Zionist, who, as you put it, "for decades was engaged in working r a just and peaceful solution of the Israell-Palestinian conflict." I do not share your high opinion of his book.

Not all revisionist history is necessarily better or truer than the history it seeks to replace. It seems to me that a prime example of misperceived and distorted history is Birth of Israel. Of the seven myths that, according to Flapan, have falsified the true history ofthe events that led to the formation of the state of Israel-to each of which he devotes a chapter-you discuss two. The first of these is that Zionist acceptance of the United Nations partition resolution of November 29, 1947 was a compromise abandoning the concept of a Jewish state in all of Palestine and accepting the right ofthe Palestinian Arabs to their own state. You paraphrase Flapan by asserting that this was in fact "only a tactical move in an overall strategy that aimed at eventually obtaining a greater share of Palestine, and thwarting the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state in the rest of Palestine." Perhaps. But for all Flapan's labors, he was unable to dig up evidence ofsuch "an overall strategy." All he cites is a speech in which BenGurion expresses disappointment with the borders and the demographic composition ofthe proposed Jewish state and intimates that international arrangements were not necessarily final, and some public statements by Zionist parties affirming their continued aspiration for a Jewish state in all of Palestine.

Neither Flapan nor the editors of Monthly Review asked the question: How would Ben Gurion and his colleagues have fulfilled their aspirations or "overall strategy" if the Arabs had accepted the U.N. resolution and established an independent democratic state in the rest of Palestine?

The other of Flapan's seven "myths" that you discuss is the only one about which lie appears to be on solid ground. This is the charge ofthe Israeli authorities that the 1947-48 flight of 600,000 to 700,000 Arabs had been instigated by appeals ofthe Arab leadership. In the archives he consulted, Flapan found no evidence of such appeals; on the contrary, Arab broadcasts urged Palestinians to stay. Your own use of the term "expulsion" to characterize the cause of the Arab flight misrepresents Flapan's discussion. He states that this tragic exodus consisted of tens of thousands who left voluntarily, hundreds of thousands who fled in panic "and still others [who] were driven out by the Jewish army." At the same time Flapan denies the Arab contention that the Jewish authorities deliberately planned ousting the Arabs.

What you completely ignore is Flapan's central thesis that the Israel-Arab war of 1947-48 could have been prevented had it not been for the hawkish intransigence of the Jewish leaders, especially Ben-Gurion. In fact, Flapan maintains that the invasion of the newborn state by the armies of five Arab countries did not make the war inevitable since the Arab regimes were not aiming to destroy Israel, but ratherto prevent Jordan's King Abdullah from annexing the rest of Palestine as part of his Greater Syria plan. …

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