Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

For Some Zionists, Truth Depends on When and to Whom It Is Spoken

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

For Some Zionists, Truth Depends on When and to Whom It Is Spoken

Article excerpt

For Some Zionists, Truth Depends on When and to Whom It Is Spoken

By Philip Collier

More than 20 years ago I read Crossroads to Israel by Christopher Sykes. I still consider it one of the best available histories of the Palestine Mandate under the British. Howard Sachar, in his A History of Israel, describes Sykes as one of the "most astute" of the "pro-Zionist" historians. Some years after reading Sachar's book, however, I was amused to see Sykes described as "pro-Arab" by a hard-line Zionist. Perhaps this is because Sachar and Sykes are both historians and thus have a respect for evidence that certain militant Zionists do not. In the conclusion of his book, Sykes warns about "Zionist propaganda" and how Zionists are prone to use different arguments to different audiences at different times.

This tactic can be quite effective, since the average American watching Nightline and seeing Benjamin Netanyahu and his well-spoken arguments is not likely to check what Netanyahu himself says in Hebrew in Israel or what an Israeli spokesman said 20 or 30 years ago.

People who do check such things, however, obtain fascinating insights. Recently I attended a social function at a synagogue. In the synagogue library I found a book titled Rebuilding Palestine by Ben N. Edidin, published in 1939 by the Behrman Jewish Book House of New York.

Facts and Figures

Most of the book concerns various building projects in Palestine. It also includes many details about leading Zionists at the time. Eventually the book does get around to discussing the Arabs who, it explains, are "necessary to understand." "Thoughtful Zionists," the author tells us, "do not dismiss the Arabs lightly for it is a fact that Arabs constitute two-thirds of the Palestine population." On page 46 he even gives us some population figures:

Muslims 950,000

Jews 450,000

Christians 109,800

Other 11,500

Beginning on page 213, and for the next several pages, Edidin goes much further than would any present day Israeli official in giving meaning to these statistics:

"Palestine has been an Arab country for 1300 years. In the 7th century, Palestine became Arab land. Arabs were the rulers, Arabic became the spoken language, the Moslem faith was accepted by most of the population, new buildings were erected in the Arabic Moorish style, and it has remained Arabic in language and religion to this day in spite of the many wars..."

During all this time, the author tells us, "Jews were permitted to govern their own communities and to practice their religion." Before you suspect that this author was a "self-hating Jew," you should read his assessment of all this on page 224. "Arab patriots fail to understand that the Jews have a prior claim to Palestine and are in greater need of the land."

This book was written just after the Arab revolt was crushed by the British. The author provides his perspective on this:

"The majority of fellaheen bedouins and city Arabs feel friendly towards the Jews. They joined in the attacks because they were told that the Jews were planning to take possession of the Moslem holy places and to drive all of the Arabs out of the country."

Whatever could have given them that idea?

This book's author has obviously spent some time in Palestine and the facts as he saw them were plain. He could not have known that half a century later the received wisdom among many Zionists would be expressed in such books as From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters. …

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