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On American Zionist Education: An excerpt from ‘The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans’


The following is an excerpt from Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman’s book The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans. Originally published in 2011, a paperback edition was released in December 2013. You can purchase the book here

When I first began thinking about what form this book would take, I took a trip to the synagogue in Los Angeles where I attended Hebrew school three days a week beginning in the late 1970s. I wanted to see if there was an archive that would reveal to me how I learned to be a Zionist. My only recollection of knowledge acquired during this time centered on the Nazi holocaust, Israel, and Jewish holidays that reinforced a Zionist ideology. The principal informed me that during my years of attendance there was at least one Zionist teacher whose instruction sacrificed the basics of Hebrew and the Bible. As would become clear to me once I examined curricular materials from that time, there would have been ample resources at his disposal.

9781137387363The principal allowed me to look through a storage room in disarray that contained textbooks and curricular materials. I found one of the main textbooks I studied during my tenure at the school, Helen Fine’s Behold, the Land: A Social Studies Text on the State of Israel published by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), which in 2003 became the Union for Reform Judaism. I also found a pile of magazines called Keeping Posted, also produced by the UAHC. These magazines were organized thematically and were dated between 1972 and 1984. Their subject fell under various categories, the bulk of which included: Law, Ethics, and Issues; the Holocaust; Israel and Zionism; Jews of Foreign Lands, Past and Present; and Traditional Texts and Holidays. They included Teachers’ Editions with a lesson plan. The magazine itself was designed as handouts for students, although I do not recall ever seeing them. Some of the most striking titles I found were as follows: “Zionism: What It Is and Is Not” (1976); “Jews of Arab Lands” (1977); “Fighters of Israel” (1978); “Anti-Semitism in America” (1979); “Theodor Herzl and the Zionist Dream” (1982); “The Palestinians” (1983). These titles roughly correspond to the themes I recall studying in my Hebrew school classes, with the exception of the Palestinians.

Jewish education has not always been like this in the United States. Zionism is relatively new to Hebrew school programs. Its explicit inclusion into curricular materials was principally a post-1967 development. It was only after the June War that Jewish American education began to shift by mainstreaming a Zionist perspective. This chapter traces these transformations focusing on the way the curricula represent Israel. I do not claim to be representative or exhaustive. Instead, I look at trends in curricular materials and at studies conducted that show the gradual shift in Jewish American Hebrew school textbooks between the June War and the 1993 Oslo Accords. Although studying these texts cannot tell me how they have been used by teachers, it can still give a general idea of what sentiments and ideas were prioritized. My interest here is in examining the discourse and representations in these materials with a specific aim of considering how those may have affected the U.S. media and ultimately the Israel lobby in ways that contribute to the unquestioning support of Israel and the silencing of Palestinian narratives.

Americanizing Zionism

In 1967, Israel was so worried about its relationship with American Jews that it sent a special envoy to the United States to study their attitudes about Israel. In this report, Tom Segev explains, “Many of them looked down on Israel for not being able to survive without their money.” It was not only this sign of helplessness that he observes, but also stronger sentiments coming from younger Jews visiting Israel that same year, who described Israelis as exhibiting “a lack of respect for the individual, ethnic discrimination, chauvinism and hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness.” [1]

These opinions are characteristic of pre–June War point of view. Paul Breines details the impact that war had on Jewish American thinking:

It is really only after the June 1967 war that we see the proliferation of scholarly studies, films, courses, lectures, conferences, tough Jewish pulp fiction, and intense popular discussion. Among American Jews, Israel’s victory in June 1967 expanded and escalated what had previously been a limited relationship to the Holocaust industry (a shoah show, some have called it) that desecrates the memory of the murdered by sale, resale, and overuse of their terror and death. In any case, from June 1967 to the present, Jewish Americans have increasingly thought of themselves in relation to both Israel and the Holocaust, that is, in terms of the imagery of tough and gentle/weak Jews. [2]

Breines’s theory about the emergence of the “tough Jew” is tied to contrasting images between the Nazi holocaust and the victory of the war. He argues, “The Holocaust made [the subjugation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip] acceptable to large numbers of American (and Israeli) Jews . . . the more brutal Israeli policies become, and as more Israelis speak of the country’s self-brutalization as well, the more American Jews discuss, indeed the more they need, the Holocaust.” [3]  In the media the Nazi holocaust rationalized the ongoing colonization of Palestine and the brutalization of Palestinians, although this relationship was not instantly reproduced in Hebrew schools. After 1967, Zionism and World War II became inextricably bound. Norman Finkelstein suggests significant changes in the United States in relation to the Nazi holocaust after 1967:

Two central dogmas underpin the Holocaust framework: (1) The Holocaust marks a categorically unique historical event; (2) The Holocaust marks the climax of an irrational, eternal Gentile hatred of Jews. Neither of these dogmas figured at all in public discourse before the June 1967 war; and, although they became the centerpieces of Holocaust literature, neither figures at all in genuine scholarship on the Nazi holocaust. On the other hand, both dogmas draw on important strands in Judaism and Zionism. [4]

What is important about Breines and Finkelstein’s assessment of the changing features of American culture and discourse after 1967 is how the Nazi holocaust became, in Finkelstein’s words, “an indispensable ideological weapon.” [5] This weapon serves multiple functions including educating Jewish youth, and by extension American youth, in a way that fuses together World War II and the Zionist conquest of Palestine by manipulating people’s sentiments and eliding history. The need for an ideological weapon after 1967 also stemmed from a response to the fact that key Zionist myths were unraveling as a result of Palestinian history books published in English, such as Nafez Nazzal and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod’s work, as well as an increasingly visible Palestinian armed resistance movement. [6] Edward Said marks this emergence that threatened American Zionists as “the unmistakable rise of an independent Palestinian national movement, and within the realm of culture and ideology, the beginnings of a fully-fledged Palestinian discourse.” [7]  The discourse posed as much of a threat as the growing armed resistance movement.

Educational and cultural contexts influence public discourse and public policy in part because of new feelings about Israel on the part of American Jews, whose job it became to ensure that the United States mirrored that support. Breines describes that post-1967 dynamic: “‘American Jews had all become Zionized.’ . . . If American Jews became Zionized, and large numbers certainly did, Zionism was also Americanized in the process.” [8]  That process of becoming Zionized, which one can see in films, novels, notably Leon Uris’s Exodus, and the media, transformed the United States politically. After 1967 whatever façade of impartiality existed in the United States faded as political, military, and economic ties to Israel became rapidly entrenched in foreign policy.

Emerging Zionist Education

One way of understanding these changes in American foreign policy is to examine how Zionism entered the consciousness of American Jews in Hebrew schools. In this context, in order to advance a Zionist perspective, Zionism became Americanized. I examined documents, reports, studies, and curricular material at the University of Judaism (now the American Jewish University) in Los Angeles, which has an archive of Jewish educational materials produced nationwide. To grasp how curricula evolved, I begin with Samuel Dinin’s study  for the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in 1944 assessing the commitment to teaching Zionism in the early 1940s. The study was carried out by sending questionnaires to Zionist leaders and Jewish educators. [9]  Dinin differentiates between indirect and direct teaching. How the subject was dealt with depended on the type of institution carrying out the instruction, but he demonstrates that in the 1940s, “References to Zionism and Palestine are implied in the study of every subject of the Hebrew school curriculum: Hebrew, Bible, Jewish history, the prayer book and synagogue services, customs and ceremonies and current events,” but there was no specific course dealing with the subject. The findings of the study are discussed separately under each of those rubrics beginning with Hebrew language classes. Dinin compares two types of Orthodox religious schools, both of which demonstrate the limited nature of the subject. In Hasidic schools: “They do not teach Hebrew as a spoken language, nor do they teach any modern Hebrew literature. The language of instruction in their schools is Yiddish. Their attitude to Zionism and modern Palestine is one of indifference or fear, i.e.: fear of the secular approach to the redemption of Zion.” In Yeshiva schools the attitude toward Zionism is more positive, but “the opportunities for teaching Palestine and Zionism in this type of school have scarcely been tapped, attempts are made to refer to Palestine not only through the study of Hebrew sources such as the Bible and Talmud, but also through encouraging the reading of modern Hebrew books and through an occasional choice of Palestine [sic] textbooks.” [10]

Some of the reasons Dinin cites for the failure to include Zionism explicitly in the curriculum are not political or religious. At the time there was a scarcity of age-appropriate textbooks and no space to add Zionism to the curriculum. The course in which he imagines the most possibility for Zionist education, the Bible, had significant barriers including the fact that in Reform school programs “little or no Hebrew is taught, the study of the Bible in English is not as widespread as one would think.” Moreover, “One of the greatest drawbacks to the study of the Bible in our schools is the failure to identify its content with the topography and geography of Palestine. . . . Few classrooms have a Palestine map and those that have probably make very little use of it.” The same sentiment is conveyed with respect to Jewish history and prayers, which like the Bible, “lends itself readily to the teaching of Palestine and Zionism. This is one of the most neglected subjects in the Hebrew schools.” Textbooks in this area of the curriculum “contain special chapters on Zionism and Palestine, and with proper teachers’ syllabi, can be used as references for a study course.” However, there was no specific textbook that covered Jewish history from a Zionist perspective. Due to a lack of resources, “not only do we not have a central office to bring to the attention of the schools materials prepared in Palestine, but we lack the facilities for popularizing materials prepared by bureaus and teachers here in America.” [11]  Where there were materials available—such as World Over magazine for children—to teach current events, the resources were not sufficiently Zionist for the ZOA. Dinin argues that these limitations are tied to the failures of indirectly teaching Zionism.

In Reform Hebrew school programs the situation was quite different, given its initial opposition to Zionism. [12]  In the 1940s, the ZOA indicates that the Reform curriculum “mentions neither Zionism nor Palestine,” even though some of the textbooks used contain chapters on the subject. [13]  Conservative Hebrew schools did not fare much better in terms of content, although there was some direct Zionist teaching and the report assured its readers that their teachers were mostly Zionists.

In 1948, a new plan was created for Conservative Hebrew schools to unify curricula across the country. Most of the standard courses remained the same such as Hebrew, Jewish holidays, prayer, and history, but two new areas were added to the curriculum: the American Jewish community and the yeshuv (settlement) in Palestine. The inclusion of these subjects was introduced at a time when some American Jews feared charges of dual loyalty; this possibly explains why the subjects were affixed together. With this move the Americanization of Zionism began. Two of the key objectives of the section on Israel are described as connecting Jewish history with the present and “acquaint[ing] the pupils with the highlights in the story of Jewish pioneering effort in Palestine, the struggle and heroism which it involved, and the establishment of the state of Israel.” This development responds to the ZOA’s objectives by creating more direct teaching of Zionism. Indirect and direct teaching become intertwined in units such as “The Jewish People—Past and Present,” in which children learn about biblical prophets thematically to blur distinctions across a vast time period and distinct people. For instance, it is suggested that students be taught “What the Prophets fought for—Justice and Peace,” which is linked to themes such as “the struggle for religious freedom as depicted in the story of Hanukah” and “How the Jewish state was lost, and the heroism involved in the struggle.” The second part of this unit is entitled “Palestine Today,” in which the focus is not only on the settler colonists and their militias, but also on stories and the geography of key places in Palestine as well as “American Jewish community agencies working for the upbuilding of Eretz Yisrael [the land of Israel].” [14]  With this unit we start to see some suggested activities that gradually emerge over the next twenty years, including creating pen-pal programs between Zionist colonists in Palestine and American Jewish youth. [15]

Another nationwide study in 1951 assessed Jewish education, which was published eight years later. It investigates the relationship between the United States and Israel as a framework for examining the Jewish child’s development with respect to “his continuous harmonious and creative adjustment to American civilization . . . [and] for his identification with world Jewry and the new Israel.” This study examined a slightly different population than the ZOA; this time 8,000 people were surveyed, including parents and students as well as educators. While neither study gives a qualitative sense of the materials and how they are used in the classroom, this one indicates how much time is allotted to each subject. By this time a content area, “Israel and Current Events,” is part of the curriculum, but it plays a minor role. The topics outlined illustrate how much time students spend on each one in decreasing order, with Hebrew classes lasting between one and three hours and Israel classes lasting on an average only twenty minutes (Yiddish classes receive less time, but in this period it fades from the curriculum except for a few remaining Yiddish schools, which inverted time spent on Hebrew for Yiddish). In spite of the way Israel became streamlined into the curriculum, the report reveals that out of one thousand teachers surveyed “only 48 teachers reported teaching Israel as a subject of study . . . it is a striking fact that so large a proportion of teachers should fail to make modern Israel a subject of study in their programs deserving definite time and attention.” The authors are keen on strengthening this component with an eye toward the future and the political influence it would bring: “The growing generation of American Jews will doubtless have considerable influence in determining that relationship” between the United States and Israel. [16]  What form that influence would take is not laid out, but they recognize the potential of educating American Jews to argue their case.

One of the primary suggestions made in most of the above studies is to incorporate activities associated with the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Established in 1901, the JNF has been the main agent of colonization in Palestine, first by purchase, then by ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, later by destroying Palestinian villages, by foresting over those villages, and Judaizing areas by renaming them. [17]  After the nakba the JNF continued its confiscation of land, helped to create new colonies, and after 1967 began its project of Judaizing Jerusalem. As the organ that controls 93 percent of the land, it plays an instrumental role in expelling Palestinians. As a registered a nonprofit organization in the United States, the JNF has been one of the primary organizations to inculcate a Zionist educational agenda. In 1962, at a meeting about Jewish education, convened in Jerusalem with Zionist organizations from around the world, a key resolution encouraged work with the JNF:

To enlist the collaboration of the students of every form of Jewish school in the efforts of the Jewish people for the ingathering of the exiles in Israel, and in particular in the activities of the Jewish National Fund, so as to render them partners in the great chalutzic [pioneering] enterprise that the Fund is at present carrying through, namely, the transformation of the desert areas which still exist in large sections of the State of Israel into places of absorption and activity. [18]

The following year a new curriculum plan for Jewish education in the United States was published with a section devoted to Israel. One suggested activity for children is tree planting with the JNF. This new manual advises educators that “a strong link of attachment is forged when a child plants a tree in Israel in honor of his birthday or in honor or memory of a loved one.” [19]  This practice became enshrined in diaspora synagogues, seemingly an innocuous act, but one that encourages youth to participate in dispossessing Palestinians from their land by planting trees meant to cover up destroyed Palestinian villages. Many impressionable youth like myself participated in these activities, ignorant of the ramifications of our actions.

While it might seem that advocating an entire section to teaching Israel shows that it became more widespread in this period, it actually had yet to become a common practice: “Although text books for children are available, few elementary schools teach ‘Israel’ as a separate subject.” This particular curriculum attempts to persuade a different audience about the necessity of Zionist education as it is directed at parents and school board members. The thrust of this volume becomes clearer when advocating teaching current events with a specific outcome: “The child not only studies current Jewish news but also learns that it is possible for each individual to do his share of influencing, interceding and acting, for the good of mankind.” [20]  Thus, we see the first indication of Zionist education as tied to political action, albeit exaggerated. One example of what the youth might do is write letters to the State Department. The other notable change is the suggestion of summer seminars in Israel sponsored by the Jewish Agency, which has its roots in early colonization of Palestine as the government-in-waiting prior to 1948. After 1948, the Jewish Agency continued its legacy by encouraging Jews to move to Palestine, making its role in luring youth to spend a summer abroad appear more like recruiting the next generation of colonists.

When Reform Judaism created a new curriculum in the early 1960s, its method was more pernicious because it hid its Zionist ideology by describing it as “peace.” As the most “liberal” branch of Judaism, this curriculum introduced subjects like social justice and peace alongside Zionism, beginning with junior high school students. In the context of history, the rationale for each component makes for an ironic lesson plan:

In the rehabilitation of Palestine, the land hallowed by memories and hopes, we behold the promise of renewed life for many of our brethren. We affirm the obligation of all Jewry to aid in its upbuilding as a Jewish homeland by endeavoring to make it not only a haven of refuge for the oppressed but also a center of Jewish culture and spiritual life.

The rhetoric here of classic Zionism—an empty, unkempt space—reveals the tone of the narrative that will be carried to classrooms through the language of helping the oppressed, which makes it seem as if in keeping with the then-current civil rights movement. Thus, the manual also advocates teaching social justice:

Judaism seeks the attainment of a just society by the application of its teachings to the economic order, to industry and commerce, and to national and international affairs. It aims at the elimination of man-made misery and suffering, of poverty and degradation, of tyranny and slavery, of social inequality and prejudice, of ill-will and strife.

The curriculum curiously advocates building a “just society,” while evading the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the treatment of Palestinians on their land. In this way its goals seem disingenuous. However, it is in keeping with a discrepancy of American liberal Jews, who see themselves as champions of the oppressed except when it comes to Palestinians. The irony is heightened with promises to inculcate peace from a Jewish perspective:

Judaism, from the days of the prophets, has proclaimed to mankind the ideal of universal peace. The spiritual and physical disarmament of all nations has been one of its essential teachings. It abhors all violence and relies upon moral education, love and sympathy to secure human progress. It regards justice as the foundation of the well-being of nations and the condition of enduring peace. [21]

On the surface perhaps there might appear to be no intrinsic contradiction among these various subjects. However, the elision of Palestinian history—the planned ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population—makes it difficult to reconcile these components of the curriculum. The hypocrisy of teaching the youth about creating a just society without prejudice and war makes this curriculum problematic, and in this context the erasure of what happened to Palestinians becomes another act of violence.

This idea of eliding reality in favor of teaching young Jews about fighting for equality fits into the paradigm of Reform curricula post-1967, even when it comes to representing Palestinians. In a sense, these educational objectives overlay an American civil rights context onto Palestine. The difference is that in the United States the struggle was against Jim Crow laws; in Palestine it is about further entrenching inequality.

The cover of Helen Fine's "Behold the Land" (Photo:

The cover of Helen Fine’s “Behold the Land” (Photo:

Narratives of Exile and Return

In the aftermath of the June War, a new textbook was published by the UAHC that became a standard text in many Hebrew schools, particularly in Reform congregations. Helen Fine’s Behold, the Land, was my first introduction to the subject when I began Hebrew school twelve years later. I focus on this text not only because it was formative in my Zionist education, but also because it is indicative of curricula disseminated in this period. My method for discussing this book is to compare Fine’s representations to accurate historical accounts of the same events, to highlight how distorting reality can lead to raising young Zionists like me.

Fine’s book introduces its subject with a series of maps, which after 1967 became a tool used to teach American Jews about Palestine. Like the maps in all Zionist textbooks, there are no borders defining where Israel begins and ends. This follows Israel’s policy of never defining its borders and blurs the line between biblical and present-day maps. [22]  Fine’s first map entitled “After the Six Day War,” represents Israel in blue encompassing the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and the West Bank: the latter two areas have lines around them, but it’s not explained why they are set off from the rest of the area. On the opposite page is a map dated 1000 b.c.e. highlighting the same region, only here there is an explanation defining it as “Israel at the time of King David.” Overlaid transparencies onto this map show the region in 4 b.c.e. identified as “Judea” as well as a map from 1947 showing the partition of Palestine. [23] One final map shows “Israel and Surrounding Countries” highlighted in different colors. Here, however, Israel rendered in orange, does not include the West Bank, which is attached to Jordan in pink nor does it include the Gaza Strip or the Sinai Peninsula, which are attached to Egypt in purple; the same is true of the Syrian Golan Heights.

The book begins with a prologue that explains, “This is the story of the Jewish people and how it lives on its own land. It tells what the Jewish homeland is like, how our people came to be there, and the kind of country we are building.” [24]  With this simple introduction Fine begins the process of fusing the past with the present, from an Orientalist perspective often focusing on Arabs (rather than Palestinians) and Arab Jews, but from the first page the use of “our” makes it clear that Jews are those who behold the land. The book proceeds by posing various questions about this land and its relationship to Jewish people, a narrative that begins with a biblical context in a chapter entitled “The Promised Land.” [25]  Two important themes embedded in this unit are exile (biblical) and return (modern). Exile is explained as follows:

In 63 c.e. the powerful Roman Empire conquered the Land of Israel and called in Palestine. When the Jews rebelled against the harsh Roman rule, Rome crushed the revolt and destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple. Many Jews were taken to Rome as slaves, while others were scattered in different countries. A few remained in Palestine, living under Roman rule.

Opening the historical narrative with a description of exile is important given how fundamental it is to secular and religious Jews. But by telling the story of how Jews became scattered, Fine ignores a few salient facts. The Romans never exiled entire populations, and from a linguistic standpoint Shlomo Sand explains that galut (exile) “was used in the sense of political subjugation rather than deportation.” He argues that “the renewed Jewish myth about the exile in fact arose fairly late, and was due mainly to the rise of Christian mythology about the Jews being exiled in punishment for their rejection and crucifixion of Jesus.” Moreover, the number of dispersed Jews was due to proselytizing not expulsion: “Like other single-deity religions that would hold power in the future, the Hasmonean theocracy used the sword to spread not only its territorial domain but also its religious following.” [27]

Sand’s research raises questions about myths like the exile and return narrative at the expense of Palestinian expulsion and their right of return. [28]  This fable of exile engenders the myth of the empty land Fine puts forward, “It was devastated by conquerors and neglected until it became nothing but deserts and mosquito-filled swamps.” [29]  The notion of return is bolstered by her discussion of Jews who have lived in Palestine consistently, although the fact that they also spoke Arabic or identified as Palestinians raises another question. Those who “returned” were mainly Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, who fled anti-Jewish violence during the late nineteenth century. Readers learn that they founded “new settlements” and were “pioneers,” terms that register with students studying colonial and westward expansion in school.

American westward expansion may seem like a disconnected reality to American Jews, but that impulse of tying people to the land is Fine’s method of introducing Zionism. Building on the notion of an exiled people in search of a home, Fine explains that Zionists are “people who wanted to do something about creating a Jewish homeland in Eretz Yisrael.” She glosses over the history of early Zionism and Theodor Herzl and moves quickly into a discussion of the JNF’s early origins in the Zionist movement: “The JNF bought land in Palestine, which became the permanent property of the entire Jewish people. The land was leased to chalutzim [pioneers] who came to Eretz Yisrael to rebuild their ancient homeland.” [30]  Next to the narrative about the JNF is a drawing of the small boxes kept in Zionist homes to collect money for the JNF and a sketch of Herzl, images reinforced by Hebrew schools that collect money with these same boxes. The picture is a replica of the box I used in lieu of a piggy bank in my home to help the cause. Emphasizing land purchases erases the reality of ethnic cleansing that led to the Zionist conquest of Palestine and encourages American Jews to participate in it.

Fine couches the need for “return” in the context of Nazi Germany, a strategy that became commonplace after 1967: “Tens of thousands of German and Austrian Jews made their escape when they recognized their danger.” [31]  But they were not welcomed with open arms. To the contrary, survivors of genocide in Europe found themselves encamped once more. Ilan Pappe sheds some light on the reality of how Jewish survivors were treated by colonists already in Palestine:

Holocaust survivors were particularly loathed by native Israelis, who regarded them and their whole experience as the antithesis of Zionism and its heroic struggle in Palestine. Like the Arab Jews, these European Jews were callously put in camps that must have reminded many of them of concentration camps, even though physically there was no resemblance whatsoever. They were also put through a humiliating process of decontamination and medical treatment, which included mass spraying with detergents such as DDT. [32]

Leaving the reality of Nazi holocaust survivors’ experiences out of schoolbooks was important, because at that time inclusion of the subject began to be tied to a rationalization for Israel, including the newly colonized territories. If children knew of their actual plight it would certainly undermine that agenda. After the June War, Zionists needed to preserve the image of the “tough Jew.” This can be seen in representations of people like Henrietta Szold, founder of Hadassah, and one of the “heroes” studied in Hebrew school curricula. Fine profiles Szold as someone who engaged in rescue work by saving children, “She journeyed to Germany to speak to parents whose children would leave for Eretz Yisrael. She promised the tearful parents that their children would be cared for and protected.” [33]  Students are supposed to be inspired to participate in activities such as writing to Hadassah to help immigrant youth. The fact that Szold refused to take their parents because she and other Jewish Agency leaders viewed them as a burden is not disclosed. Citing debates among Jewish Agency leaders, Segev notes this was not an isolated position. Quoting from a memo of one such leader reveals this sentiment about selecting Jewish immigrants, “‘I will not demand that the Jewish Agency allocate a sum of 300,000 or 100,000 pounds sterling to help European Jewry. And I think that whoever demands such things is performing an anti-Zionist act.’” He adds another significant detail: “At the time of these exchanges—January 1943—Jews were being exterminated in great numbers.” [34]

The introduction of World War II history into Fine’s text was new, however much it was distorted. The choice of highlighting figures who were American or who represented American ideals was one aspect of Zionizing America. Another was presenting Israel as a melting pot of Jews and Arabs assimilating into dominant Ashkenazi culture. The melting pot enables Fine to acknowledge that the land was not empty while portraying Zionists as a civilizing influence. In a section entitled “The Arabs in Palestine,” Zionist mythology springs out of Theodor Herzl’s novel Old New Land in which Palestinians welcome the colonists who improve their lives. Fine explains that Palestinians—although she identifies them only with the generic term “Arab”—lived in “primitive villages,” envied Jewish agriculture, and “Jews were eager to help their poor Arab neighbors improve their lives. They lent them their tractors and showed them how to use modern farm machinery and equipment. They wanted to share their knowledge and skills with the Arab farmers.” [35]  This narrative is repeated when Fine explores the Negev and Bedouin Palestinians whom she portrays as “grateful” for learning European agricultural techniques. She represents Palestinian peasants as pawns of their land owners who fomented anger against Jewish colonists leading to attacks on settlements, “Jews had to fight for their lives. They fought for the right to live in their ancient homeland.” [36]  But she never makes it clear that the people they fought are the same people they now “share” the land with. Fine’s representation of Jewish colonists in Palestine as only wanting to help their Palestinian neighbors helps her to ground the argument of self-defense throughout the textbook’s narrative.

Illustration from "Behold the Land" (Photo:

Illustration from “Behold the Land” (Photo:

That myth of self-defense is important when narrating the nakba, which is another story in which Fine inverts the truth. In her logic, Arabs attacked Jews. She describes the Zionist version of the nakba as follows:

The Arabs were determined to prevent the Jewish state from being born. On the very day that the United Nations approved partition, Arabs attacked the Jews in Jerusalem, killing many old men, women, and children. Bands of Arabs roamed the lonely outposts in the northern hills and southern desert. They pounded on unprotected settlements and killed hundreds of defenseless Jews.

The Yeshuv fought back, although it had trouble with the British soldiers. The British had promised to guard the Jewish settlements, but somehow they were never around when the Arabs attacked. Moreover, they did not let the Jews defend themselves. They searched Jewish homes and settlements, and seized all weapons they found. [37]

For youngsters like me, reading passages such as this—coupled with commentary from teachers and current events discussed in class—instilled an early and irrational fear of Arabs. Because there is no context about who Arabs are or why they might be angry enough to fight, she reinforces the notion that Jews are persecuted everywhere for irrational reasons. Information about elaborate plans by Zionist leaders, including David Ben-Gurion, to ethnically cleanse Palestine, known as Plan Dalet, devised before United Nations Resolution 181 partitioning Palestine, is suppressed. [38] With respect to the myth of Jews fighting unarmed or the British intervening, Pappe revises this assumption: “Zionist preparations for the eventuality of taking the land by force, should it fail to be granted to them through diplomacy, included the building of an efficient military organisation—with the help of sympathetic British officers—and the search for ample financial resources (for which they could tap the Jewish Diaspora).” [39]  Pappe recuperates this history by retracing the massacres and the expulsion of 531 Palestinian villages aided by various Zionist militias that often worked in cahoots. In contradistinction, the textbook represents ethnic cleansing as an unfortunate result of a war of “no choice”: “To everyone’s amazement, the Jews defeated the Arabs and drove them out of the land.” [40]  Fine selects the definite article, rather than a possessive pronoun—“the” in lieu of “their”—to deemphasize the catastrophic impact. If it is just any land and not one belonging to Palestinians, then the consequence of their uprooting can be portrayed as less traumatic. Later wars are portrayed as if Zionists were forced into them as well. The June War is also represented as one fought to prevent future Nazi holocausts. In contrast, students read about Israel’s “War of Independence,” but are not asked to connect it to World War II. Instead, one of the main discussion questions asks students, “In what way was Israel’s War of Independence similar to the American Revolution? How was it different?” [41]  This question, in an entirely different context, could be quite useful in the way that it would address European colonialism in Palestine and the United States and the devastation experienced by both indigenous populations. [42]  To consider that in both locations they live as colonists would be doubly troublesome for American Jews. However, raising those questions is the kind of educational work that leads to critical thinking and possibly to social change.

Comparisons of conquest to the early colonies in the United States and Palestine are expanded when Fine tells the story of Zionists annexing the Galilee. She compares the colonists fighting the Syrians in “self-defense” against “the Arabs [who] swooped down on the Jewish settlements and set fire to their fields” to the Minute Men who “were ready to strike at a moment’s notice.” [43]  Here she Americanizes Zionism to make it intelligible for readers familiar with the American Revolution. Likewise the representation of pre-nakba Jaffa is of constant “Arab raids.” Here she narrates, through the eyes of one of the founders of Tel Aviv: “When we finally captured the city, most of its Arabs had fled. Their abandoned homes were occupied by olim [immigrants] who poured into Israel by the thousands.” [44]  Their expulsion is excluded. The feeling conveyed is that this was a fact of war, and not the planned removal of the indigenous at gunpoint.

The Arabs who represent a threat in Fine’s textbook are not Jewish. As if to counterbalance this portrayal, and to speak to Americans growing up in a multiethnic society, she portrays Israel as a country based on equality. Thus the book concentrates on the fate of Arab Jews who were “rescued” by the Jewish Agency in actions such as Operation Magic Carpet. She tells these stories through various characters such as two newly arrived Yemenis: “How Saadia and Tamar rejoiced that their child was a Sabra [“native Israeli”]! He would not be an exile living in an Arab country, as his parents had been. He was born in freedom and would grow up in the Promised Land.” She compares Yemeni Jews to other colonists from India, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia, Poland, and Romania, bringing out the American melting-pot metaphor, amalgamating people into dominant European culture. Approximating portrayals of American immigrants, she calls Arabs “backward,” emphasized by describing them as without shoes and afraid of bathing. She details how Yemeni Jews were impressed by running water, radios, and dining utensils. The larger narrative framing this section is the need to populate and create new “development towns,” a term for colonies similar to outposts in the American West. It was Arab Jews who helped spread the “population into every corner of the land. Israel’s safety is at stake. The new settlements along the borders will help protect the state from attack.” To ensure that they would learn to overcome their “backwardness,” they were sent to the army, which Fine calls “the biggest school in Israel.” [45]

By highlighting immigrant experiences, especially Jews from different corners of the globe, Fine extends the theme of exile and return. She tells her readers, “Jews had lived in Yemen since the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Through the centuries they kept in close touch with the Jews of Palestine, Babylonia, and Egypt. The Jews of Yemen lived in peace until the Mohammedans rose to power and tried to force them to become Moslems.” [46]  This narrative distorts how Jews came to live in Yemen. According to Sand, beginning in the second century b.c.e. the Himyar Kingdom, present-day Yemen (as well as areas like the Hijaz of present-day Saudi Arabia), was a “Judaizing kingdom” and their “Jewish preaching had led to the astonishing conversion of an entire kingdom in the south.” [47]  Thus, Yemeni Jews were a product of conversion, not exile. Moreover, for many Yemeni Jews arriving in Palestine racism was not limited to comments about their lack of footwear. Many children were kidnapped by the state and handed to European Jews, as Joseph Massad points out:

Yemeni parents whose children were sick were taken from them to hospitals where the parents were prevented from going. The parents were later told that their children had died and were buried. Petitions were sent to the police inquiring about the missing children. The Minster of Police did not reply. Ironically, twenty years later, in 1968, the Ministry of Defense sent military draft notices to the address of the parents of these children. An investigation was launched by the Knesset in March 1968, but no satisfactory answers were found. The conspiracy was, in fact, sophisticated enough to produce fraudulent death certificates for some of the kidnapped children and to obfuscate all attempts by the children’s parents to investigate this crime for decades. On their part, government bureaus hid and manipulated information about the crimes. In 1986, a massive public rally was held by the Public Committee for the Discovery of the Missing Yemeni Children. [48]

Expunging this aspect of Yemeni Jewish history from the historical record makes it easier for Fine to project an image of Israel as an inclusive society. This is parallel to ways the United States erases the history of First Nations children removed from their families and enrolled in Christian boarding schools.

Illustration from "Behold the Land" (Photo:

Illustration from “Behold the Land” (Photo:

Just as Arab Jews figure as a means to represent a multicultural society, so too are Palestinians living in 1948 Palestine. A chapter entitled “The Stranger in Your Midst,” renders Zionist colonists as bent on creating an equal society that includes non-Jews. Thus, although the term “stranger” is featured in the title, Fine tells her readers that because Jews were also “strangers in the land of Egypt,” “we have also learned sympathy for others from our religion. ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ the Book of Leviticus teaches us.” To this end, she profiles the city of Nazareth including its pre-nakba history. From this vantage point she details the “primitive” lifestyle in which farmers are beaten by their landlords, wives “could be bought for three camels or four donkeys,” “heaps of garbage lay in the streets,” and “women walked behind their husbands.” [49]  The rhetoric elsewhere in Fine’s book gets recycled here to illustrate that “Arabs” (still unnamed as Palestinians), like Hirfa and her grandfather Mustapha, wanted to learn about the settlers’ “modern methods” of farming.

From "Behold the Land" (Photo:

From “Behold the Land” (Photo:

In the process of introducing her readers to Hirfa and Mustapha, Fine touches on the nakba, but does so through the myth that Arab armies ordered Palestinians to flee: “We need a clear road for our armies, so that they can conquer the land and throw the Jews into the sea.” Consequently, she describes what the emptied land looked like in a way that seems borderline remorseful. Because her characterization simplifies the history into a war of self-defense for the Jews, she renders the conquest of Palestinian cities as benign: “The Jews marched into Nazareth and took the town. The Arabs who had remained continued to work on the land. There were not enough homes in Israel for the thousands of new Jews who came after the war, and the new government moved the refugees into the empty Arab villages.” Fine tells readers that Mustapha and his family were among those who stayed, although his landlord fled and found that the new state labeled his property “abandoned,” but that they promised to pay him for it. She paints their narrative favorably by telling her young readers, “New laws were passed in the Knesset in favor of the poor Arab farmers. For the first time, Hirfa’s family owns its own land.” Although the story does not include the fate of the rest of her family, one of the chapters suggests that students discuss this issue: “Hirfa’s uncles were among the refugees who fled Israel during The War of Independence. Do you think Israel is right in refusing them the right to return to their old homes? Why? Why not?” [50]  Without any context for what Israel’s “War of Independence” meant for Palestinians, most of whom became refugees, it is difficult to imagine how students would even begin to answer questions about their right of return.

What does get narrated, that Palestinians fled based on orders from Arab armies, merely repeats a refuted Zionist myth. Nur Masalha takes readers through depopulated villages to illustrate how Palestinians were expelled, including Nazareth. Like most villages the only evacuation orders came from the Zionist leadership:

On seeing so many Palestinians remaining in situ, [Ben-Gurion] angrily asked the local commander, “why are there so many Arabs? Why didn’t you expel them?” Apparently, the commander of the Seventh Brigade which had captured Nazareth, Ben Dunkelman, had received explicit orders from his superiors to drive out unarmed civilians who had formally surrendered. [51]

The only reason that some residents stayed in Nazareth was that Dukelman failed to carry out his orders; many of Nazareth’s Palestinians also became refugees. Palestinians from Nazareth’s surrounding villages, like Saffuriyya, suffered a worse fate as they became internal refugees in Nazareth. [52]  Internally displaced Palestinians are an essential part of Nazareth’s history. Their presence contradicts Zionist arguments about the right of return because most only live a few miles from their villages, but cannot return. Fine mentions the fate of some who returned in a later chapter: “A few smuggled themselves across the borders during the years that followed and were allowed to remain,” without any context about what that meant for internal refugees (called “infiltrators” by Israel) who may have been “allowed” to remain, but certainly not in their homes or on their own land. [53]  For if internal refugees remained in 1948 Palestine, but were not allowed to return to their homes, what does that say about Fine’s representation of multicultural Israel? In fact, the Judaization of Palestinian villages was bolstered by legal maneuvers, ensuring that the internally displaced could not return to their villages: they were classified as “present absentees,” meaning physically present, but absent from their land; the state confiscated property and forbade Palestinians inside 1948 from returning.  [54] This land is considered the property of Jews worldwide. This process of land confiscation continues, known as the ongoing nakba, most recently in Jaffa, Lydda, the Negev, and Jerusalem. [55]  Thus, it is safe to say that Fine’s fictional Mustapha and his landlord were not paid and likely lost land. Palestinians like Hirfa’s family who remained in historic Palestine were subjected to a series of what were known as Emergency Defense Laws between 1948 and 1966, laws based on the British Mandate and similar to laws later enforced in the West Bank and Gaza.

From "Behold the Land" (Photo:

From “Behold the Land” (Photo:

Fine extends her narrative on Palestinians in one of the longer chapters of the book entitled “Arab Progress.” She embellishes an idealized representation of 1948 Palestinians, arguing that essentially their lives have improved; they have been saved by the Jewish state: “For the first time in their history they can vote as citizens of a democracy. They have several representatives in the Knesset. Many own land for the first time.” [56]  Through Hirfa, Fine details what she sees as developments in education, women’s lives, democracy, and Arab culture. She tells us that Hirfa’s mother, Latifa, was illiterate before Zionists colonized Palestine and was not equal to men. [57] But now Latifa has been “liberated,” because she no longer wears a “heavy black veil” and “trained teachers are showing her how to sew and how to cook nourishing meals” as well as how to read and write in Arabic and Hebrew. [58] The referent in Fine’s statement indicates the theft of Palestinian culture, particularly cuisine and embroidery. Ironically, the notion that colonists have come to modernize Palestinians by teaching them aspects of their own culture that Israelis co-opted is yet another layer of that theft. [59]  Hirfa’s family becomes “modern” in Fine’s parlance, and her life advances because she goes to school: “Hirfa is receiving an education that will help her be a useful and happy citizen,” we are told, and now she has a chance to go to Hebrew University on a scholarship because “the Jewish state considers the education of its Arab children important.” [60]  It is true that in villages, though not in cities like Nazareth, literacy levels were low. Still, the idea that Palestinians’ lives were enhanced by colonists is disturbing once one begins discovering the facts about the lives of Palestinians since the nakba. Imagine similar statements about First Nations people in the United States and one begins to get an idea of why her portrait is bothersome. Fine’s allusion to Hirfa’s citizenship is connected to her analogizing Israel and the United States as democracies. Zionists brought democracy to Palestinians in the same way that Europeans brought democracy to First Nations people. However, there are essential differences: Israel has no constitution and no nationality. Instead, there is Jewish nationality for Jews worldwide. Thus Palestinians can be citizens, but never nationals. [61]  The textbook is designed to hide these distinctions by connecting the United States and Israel through language about their shared democratic values.

Reading about 1948 Palestinians post-nakba in Fine’s textbook is like reading an elaborate tall tale chronicling the wonders of Zionist “modernity” and the ways it affected Palestinian lives. From farming—most Palestinians were still on their land, but now forced to work as sharecroppers rather than as owners as Fine would have it—to the building of settlement colonies in Palestinian cities such as Nazareth, she depicts Palestinians as people who are envious of and who marvel at changes to their “backward,” and now Judaized, landscape and culture. As for the improvements in education, Palestinians are prohibited from teaching any Palestinian history; schools are controlled by Shin Bet (internal security), including its hiring, and the Ministry of Education, especially after 1948, hired “Jewish teachers in Arab schools intended to inculcate in the Arab minority ‘a love for the state of Israel’ and respect for the principles of the Zionist ideology.” [62]  The Ministry of Education’s plans, beginning in 1949, were, as Jonathan Cook puts it: “To ‘emphasize and develop the contradictions’ between the Druze, Christian and Muslim populations to diminish their Arab and Palestinian identities.” [63]  This separation of Palestinians is replicated in Fine’s text in a separate chapter on the Druze, although she repeats much of the same information about Zionists bringing education and “modernity” to Druze villages. Although she does not highlight any distinct characteristics that distinguish Druze, Christians, or Muslims, at the conclusion of the chapter she asks students to discuss these differences. This question can be answered by students not in relation to Palestinians in Israel, but by comparing them to Palestinian refugees in neighboring Arab countries. This narrative forwards the Zionist myth that 1948 Palestinians are better off, as the chapter’s discussion questions make clear.

The bulk of the textbook’s later chapters turn from highlighting particular themes or people into a kind of travel narrative that takes readers on a tour of various locations around Palestine, with a particular emphasis on holy sites. She returns to the subject of education, but this time through a Jewish American fifth-grader’s eyes. Readers follow Heidi Morrison through her lessons and school field trips. During one such trip to Qisarya (Caesarea) her teacher tells her, “We are sitting on benches built by our conquerors, who are long dead. Their civilization is lost, but Israel still lives!” [64]  On these trips they learn about Romans, but not about Palestinians who were conquered only twenty years before. Palestinians from Qisarya have a particular distinction in history as Pappe reveals: “Qisarya was the first village to be expelled in its entirety, on 15 February 1948. The expulsion took only a few hours and was carried out so systematically that the Jewish troops were able to evacuate and destroy another four villages on the same day, all under the watchful eyes of the British troops stationed in police stations nearby.” [65] American school children are invited to comment on the educational model illustrated by Heidi’s experiences to imagine what they would study. The choice of having readers witness a Jewish American child is important for Americanizing Zionism. Fine makes this explicit by telling us, “Most Middle Eastern countries do not have free public schools. The Jewish state, however, follows the modern democratic ideas of Western Europe and America.” [66]  She compares the history of American education as a tool of assimilation for immigrants to accentuate the “backwardness” of Arab Jews. At the chapter’s conclusion, questions are posed asking about the differences between schools in the United States and Israel. Students are expected to explore exchange programs to study in Israel by inviting speakers to class.

The textbook culminates with a gloss of archaeology in Palestine to drive home the theme of exile and return. The section helps young readers see deep Jewish roots in Palestine that are tied to familiar narratives from the Bible. Scholars such as Sand chronicle the academic flaws in research demonstrating a history of a Jewish kingdom, findings that are profound with respect to cities like Jerusalem:

Excavations in Jerusalem in the 1970s—that is, after the city had been “reunified forever” by the Israeli government—undermined the fantasies about the glorious past. It was not possible to dig under the Haram al-Sharif, but explorations at all the other sites that were opened up around it failed to find any traces of an important tenth-century kingdom, the presumed time of David and Solomon. No vestige was ever found of monumental structures, walls or grand palaces, and the pottery found there was scanty and quite simple. [67]

However, it seems not to matter whether there is any evidence tying Jews to Palestine in Fine’s book. In the final evaluation, her purpose is to build an attachment between Jewish American youth and Israel. The textbook’s subject and tone are concerned with eliciting particular emotions rather than historical facts. Thus, she presents a mythical version of history. The conclusion of the textbook makes her pedagogical objective obvious: “You have learned how our people feels [sic] about its ancient homeland. . . . Although you and I live in America so many miles away, strong bonds join us to our Jewish homeland for we are a part of the Jewish people.” [68]  The goal stated repeatedly in pre-1967 surveys is realized here by binding Jewish youth to Israel. As one of the first textbooks written after 1967, this strategy sets the stage for the conventional model of themes in future textbooks. As my first textbook and introduction to the subject, it sealed for me precisely what it set out to do: it established a strong emotional bond to a place I had never been and where I knew no one.

The end of "Behold the Land"

The end of “Behold the Land” (Photo:

Excerpt from Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman, The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans, published 2011, reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. Special thanks to Alyssa Goldstein for allowing us to reprint her photos of “Behold the Land.”


1. Tom Segev, 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year That Transformed the Middle East, trans. Jessica Cohen (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2007), 106; 107.

2. Paul Breines, Tough Jews: Political Fantasies and the Moral Dilemma of American Jewry (New York: Basic Books, 1990), 72.

3. Ibid., 73.

4. Norman Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (New York: Verso, 2000), 41–42.

5. Ibid., 3.

6. See Nafez Nazzal, The Palestinian Exodus from Galilee 1948 (Beirut: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1978); Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, ed. Transformation of Palestine (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1971).

7. Edward W. Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds. Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (New York: Verso, 1988), 7.

8. Breines, Tough Jews, 57.

9. At the time there were 2,200 Jewish schools in twenty-six cities, which enrolled 126,717 elementary students and 7,059 high school students.

10. Samuel Dinin, Zionist Education in the United States: A Survey (New York: Zionist Organization of America, 1944), 67.

11. Ibid., 69; 71.

12. See Melvin I. Urofsky, American Zionism: From Herzl to the Holocaust (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995).

13. Dinin, Zionist Education in the United States, 73.

14. Louis L. Ruffman, Curriculum Outline for the Congregational School: Primary and Elementary Divisions (New York: United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1948), 17; 30; 31.

15. Ruffman published a revised edition of this curriculum in 1959 in which the structure and curricular goals are more specific and structured with respect to specific learning outcomes for each grade. The same basic themes are expressed, but he recommends a cyclical approach broken down by “Eretz Yisrael” and American Jews for the first three grades, with more depth in the fourth through sixth grades when political Zionism enters the curriculum. Curiously, in the second grade the “Unit on Israel” is described as “optional.” This revised curriculum also makes the first reference, among the materials I examined, to Nazi Germany as a content area. See Louis L. Ruffman, Curriculum Outline for the Congregational School, rev. ed. (New York: United Synagogue Commission on Jewish Education, 1959).

16. Alexander M. Dushkin and Uriah Z. Engelman, Jewish Education in the United States: Report of the Commission for the Study of Jewish Education in the United States, vol. 1 (New York: American Association for Jewish Education, 1959), 5; 194.

17. See “The Jewish National Fund: A Para-State Institution in the Service of Colonialism and Apartheid,” al-Majdal 43 (Winter–Spring 2010), (accessed April 29, 2010); (accessed July 15, 2011).

18. World Conference on Jewish Education: An Interim Report (Jerusalem: n.p., 1962), 22.

19. Gershon I. Gelbart, Jewish Education in America: A Manual for Parents and School Board Members (New York: Jewish Education Committee Press, 1963), 52.

20. Ibid., 51; 53.

21. Commission on Jewish Education, An Outline for the Jewish Religious School (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1963), 3–4.

22. David Ben-Gurion advocated this policy: “For Ben-Gurion, an eminent realist, the boundaries of the Jewish state should be flexible, never finally fixed, but dependent on the nature and need of the historical moment and regional and international conditions.” Nur Masalha, Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: The Politics of Expansion (London: Pluto Press, 2000), 6.

23. Helen Fine, Behold, the Land (New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1968), n.p.

24. Ibid., 1.

25. See Nur Masalha, The Bible and Zionism Invented Traditions, Archaeology, and Post-Colonialism in Israel-Palestine (London: Zed Books, 2007); Basem Ra`ad, Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean (London: Pluto Press, 2010); Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle (London: Pluto Press, 2004).

26. Fine, Behold, the Land, 5.

27. Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, trans. Yael Lotan (New York: Verso, 2009), 133; 134; 157.

28. See Nur Masalha, The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem (London: Pluto Press, 2003); Naseer Aruri, ed. Palestinian Refugees and the Right of Return (London: Pluto Press, 2001).

29. Fine, Behold, the Land, 5.

30. Ibid., 54; 55.

31. Ibid., 7.

32. Ilan Pappe, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 178–179.

33. Fine, Behold, the Land, 107.

34. Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: The Israelis and the Holocaust, trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Holt, 2000), 102.

35. Fine, Behold, the Land, 8.

36. Ibid., 8.

37. Ibid., 19.

38. See Nur Masalha, Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882–1948 (Washington, DC: Institute for Palestine Studies, 1992).

39. Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: One World, 2006), 15.

40. Fine, Behold, the Land, 22.

41. Ibid., 23.

42. See Steven Salaita, The Holy Land in Transit: Colonialism and the Quest for Canaan (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006); Fuad Sha`ban, For Zion’s Sake: The Judeo-Christian Tradition in American Culture (London: Pluto Press, 2005).

43. Fine, Behold, the Land, 61. Also see Nazzal, The Palestinian Exodus.

44. Ibid., 64; 65.

45. Ibid., 79; 85; 90.

46. Ibid., 94.

47. Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, 196; 192.

48. Joseph A. Massad, The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (New York: Routledge, 2006), 60–61. On Arab Jews see Ella Shohat, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006); Abbas Shiblak, Iraqi Jews: A History of Mass Exodus (London: Saqi Books, 2005).

49. Fine, Behold, the Land, 163; 165.

50. Ibid., 166.

51. Nur Masalha, The Politics of Denial, 31.

52. See Nur Masalha, ed. Catastrophe Remembered: Palestine, Israel, and the Internal Refugees (London: Zed Books, 2005); Ilan Pappe, The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011).

53. Fine, Behold, the Land, 167.

54. See Jonathan Cook, Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (London: Zed Books, 2008).

55. See “Palestine’s Ongoing Nakba,” al-Majdal 39/40 (Autumn 2008–Winter 2009),–40 (accessed February 3, 2009).

56. Fine, Behold, the Land, 167.

57. See Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh, Birthing the Nation: Strategies of Palestinian Women in Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

58. Fine, Behold, the Land, 169.

59. See Widad Kamel Kawar and Tania Nasir, “The Traditional Palestinian Costume,” Journal of Palestine Studies 10, no. 1 (Autumn 1980): 118–129; Ahmad H. Sa`di, “Catastrophe, Memory and Identity: al-Nakbah as a Component of Palestinian Identity,” Israel Studies 7, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 175–198.

60. Fine, Behold, the Land, 168.

61. See Nadim N. Rouhana, Palestinian Citizens in an Ethnic Jewish State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

62. See Majid al-Haj, Education, Empowerment, and Control: The Case of the Arabs in Israel (Albany: State University of New York, 1995), 169.

63. Cook, Disappearing Palestine, 31.

64. Fine, Behold, the Land, 214.

65. Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, 75.

66. Fine, Behold, the Land, 216.

67. Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People, 120. Also see Nadia Abu el-Haj, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

68. Fine, Behold, the Land, 257.


Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman
About Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman

Marcy Jane Knopf-Newman is a teacher, writer, and activist based in Bangalore. She is a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. She will be speaking at a few venues in the U.S. in May. See for details. All book-generated revenue goes directly to the Middle East Children's Alliance (

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10 Responses

  1. American
    March 6, 2014, 10:25 am

    Brainwashing children.
    Impossible to list the cost and the damage the Zionist cult has caused since 1948 to everyone it has touched.

  2. bintbiba
    March 6, 2014, 10:35 am

    ooh! The perfidy!!

  3. MHughes976
    March 6, 2014, 12:20 pm

    I suppose that we Christians interpreted the ‘Persecutions’ so as to meet our ‘need’ for a narrative which would justify our heresy-hunting and hostility to Jews.

  4. annie
    March 6, 2014, 12:47 pm

    But now Latifa has been “liberated,” because she no longer wears a “heavy black veil” and “trained teachers are showing her how to sew and how to cook nourishing meals” as well as how to read and write in Arabic and Hebrew. [58] The referent in Fine’s statement indicates the theft of Palestinian culture, particularly cuisine and embroidery. Ironically, the notion that colonists have come to modernize Palestinians by teaching them aspects of their own culture that Israelis co-opted is yet another layer of that theft. [59] Hirfa’s family becomes “modern” in Fine’s parlance, and her life advances because she goes to school: “Hirfa is receiving an education that will help her be a useful and happy citizen,” we are told, and now she has a chance to go to Hebrew University on a scholarship because “the Jewish state considers the education of its Arab children important.”

    so many choice quotes in the article. it’s stunning really. and i highly recommend clicking on the last photo for anyone having trouble reading the text. amazing.

    • LeaNder
      March 6, 2014, 3:04 pm

      Annie, that would have been one of my choices, with a special emphasis on the necessity of showing–I suppose teaching–Palestinian women how to “cook nourishing meals”.

      This study is a very important piece in the large puzzle.

  5. Donald
    March 6, 2014, 1:48 pm

    This is the kind of work I was calling for a couple of days ago. It turns out someone was already doing it.

    On the 67 war, Peter Novick in “The Holocaust and American Life” says something similar. The 67 war changed attitudes in the American Jewish community. I forget now whether he said it changed attitudes towards Israel, or towards the Holocaust, or both.

    • Sycamores
      March 10, 2014, 11:48 am

      The 67 war changed attitudes in the American Jewish community. I forget now whether he said it changed attitudes towards Israel, or towards the Holocaust, or both.

      i believe the big changed in American Jewish attitudes after 67 war was pride in Israel, David and Goliath zionist narrative was bought hook, line and sinker.

  6. Stephen Shenfield
    Stephen Shenfield
    March 6, 2014, 6:12 pm

    I remember that he says the topic of the Holocaust was avoided and downplayed in the US in the late 1940s and 1950s. Only three books on the subject were published at this time. One reason was the fear that an emphasis on the Holocaust would strengthen opposition to the rearmament of West Germany and the consolidation of NATO as an alliance with West Germany. Once these goals were accomplished this consideration lost its force.

    So we have the very curious phenomenon of emphasis on the Holocaust growing the further it recedes in time — the opposite of what a naive observer would naturally expect. That points to a hidden agenda of shifting power politics.

    I would add an impression I have gained from reading material from the early postwar period. It seems to me that at that time the Holocaust was still perceived as an integral aspect of fascism; a focus on the Holocaust was associated with the broader cause of anti-fascism. And this cause was still perceived as a left-wing cause, as it was in the interwar period. So conservatives preferred to avoid the subject. For one thing, they did not want people to remember how they had sympathized with fascism before the war.

    By contrast, the cult of the Holocaust promoted since 1967 serves the cause of right-wing politics by removing the Holocaust from the original broad anti-fascist context and interpreting it solely in terms of Jews and anti-Semitism.

    • JeffB
      March 6, 2014, 6:25 pm


      Jews gained economic power during the 1950s and 1960s. Demographically Jews weren’t big in unions. The Republican party would have been their natural home. But the Republican party still had traces of its old anti-Semtism. Playing up the holocaust in the 1950s allowed the Democrats to play up various Republican (and anti-Roosevelt Democrat) pro-Nazi groups that had been active in the United States mostly before but a bit during the war. Along with residual Republican anti-Semitism that worked effectively to keep Jews on the farm. The old joke “Jews live like WASPs and vote like Puerto Ricans” came from that era.

      Also it is worth remembering that de-Nazification had been successful so by mid 1950s one could talk about the Holocaust in a safe historical context.

      In terms of the Jewish community:
      a) Israel ended the embarrassment Jews felt about the Holocaust. It redeemed Jews psychologically. Two decades earlier it had been a source of shame for many American Jews.

      b) There wasn’t quite as much concern with survivors. What people had done to survive the war was now 20 years earlier, a generation ago. There wasn’t a nervousness in talking about it that uncomfortable truths were going to come up.

      c) The Holocaust began to take on theological not political implications which IMHO is what it represents today. Its hard to tell but IMHO the Holocaust is becoming something like the crucifixion with Israel being the resurrection.

  7. Donald
    March 6, 2014, 6:26 pm

    “It seems to me that at that time the Holocaust was still perceived as an integral aspect of fascism; a focus on the Holocaust was associated with the broader cause of anti-fascism. And this cause was still perceived as a left-wing cause, as it was in the interwar period. So conservatives preferred to avoid the subject. For one thing, they did not want people to remember how they had sympathized with fascism before the war.By contrast, the cult of the Holocaust promoted since 1967 in the service of Zionism (and right-wing politics in general) removes it from the original broad anti-fascist context and interprets it solely in terms of Jews and anti-Semitism.”

    I think that’s probably right. In William Shirer’s book on Nazi Germany, which is pre-67, he has a chapter on Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust is discussed in there, along with the other crimes. The theme is that the Nazis were just killers and gangsters in every conceivable way.

    Going along with what you say, I also remember that people used to point to the lessons of the Holocaust as being that intolerance can lead to horrible crimes, it’s wrong to look away, and even seemingly “nice” people can become participants in great evil. We’re all potential villains if we don’t watch out. Later it seemed to me like the focus often shifted to the Holocaust as the culmination of Western antisemitism, and also, somewhat contradictorily, how Hitler and Stalin were both heads of evil totalitarian regimes, but we’re good and would never do such horrible things. So the lessons shift around, depending on what political axes someone wants to grind.

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