Ari Shavit’s new book My Promised Land: the Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, will be published this week, and tomorrow night the author and David Remnick will have a conversation at the 92d Street Y.
A section of the book dealing with the expulsion of the Palestinian population of Lydda in 1948 was published last month in Remnick’s magazine, The New Yorker, and historian Rashid Khalidi spoke about this piece during his appearance in Brooklyn last week with Brooklyn for Peace. The context for Khalidi’s remarks was praising young Americans for having a more honest engagement than their forebears with the truth about the “systematic theft” of Palestinian land. Though the media are still not in step:
You read something like The New York Times or The New Yorker and you see things that on the face of it simply involve contradictions that are absolutely impossible. I don’t know if anyone saw the piece by Ari Shavit about the massacre and the expulsion of the population in Lyd. What is not said in that article is so much worse than the awful things that are said. He talks about what is, if you read it, clearly a war crime. He never uses the word war crime, and he justifies it. And he doesn’t talk about so much else. It’s not as if those few tens of thousands were the only ones who were forced to flee. The overwhelming majority of the Arab population of Palestine–there were about 1.3 million, between 700 and 800,000 of them, the majority– were forced to flee in similar ways. That’s the background to this.
Right next to Lyd is Ramle. The same thing happened in Ramle. Another several tens of thousands. He never mentions it. It’s one of the most extraordinary pieces the New Yorker ever published. And it is typical of the kind of quotation which is involved in saying I’m pro-Israel. If that’s pro-Israel, you’re pro-war crime. That’s what Shavit is basically saying. He’s saying I’m pro war crime, I recognize that we did these bad things.
Read the article. It’s extraordinarily contradictory in its very essence. And that very much represents I think the way that a lot of people here feel. But it is remarkable that some of these things are finally being talked about. I have friends who say, I’m glad that they’re talking about Lyd at all. In a sense that’s true, I suppose…. At least it’s being talked about. You have glass half full, you have people creeping out and being willing to say some things that they never were before.
Later in Brooklyn, Khalidi responded to a young questioner by remarking on the growing awareness of the facts of the conflict among intellectuals and activists and students, including many Jews:
The media is pretty much occupied territory. Capitol Hill is completely occupied territory. Outside of those very important crucial bastions, I would not like to be fighting the other side of this issue, because they have no moral case whatsoever. There’s not much of a strategic case in my view. And lot of the myths that were so essential to the early decades of Israel’s establishment and expansion and the way in which it fixed itself in the American mind have a lot more of a hold over people in their 70s and 60s and 50s than they do over people in their 20s and 30s. The connection between the Holocaust and Israel, the idea that Israel was on the verge of extermination in the 67 war– these are articles of faith among people much older than you.