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‘NPR’ denies the Nakba

Israel/Palestine
on 30 Comments
Robert Siegel, from NPR's site.

Robert Siegel, from NPR’s site.

Yesterday National Public Radio’s Robert Siegel did an imaginative piece about how history would have worked out differently in the 20th century if there had been no World War I. And of course, before long he came to Palestine, an Ottoman holding:

SIEGEL: In this counter-historical world, there is no Holocaust. The small Jewish settlement in Palestine continues, but without a flood of refugees it remains a minority community there.

So Siegel is saying that Palestine became majority Jewish because of the flood of Jewish refugees from Europe. This is false. According to Rashid Khalidi’s book, The Iron Cage, even with the flood of Jewish refugees from Europe in the 1930s, “Arabs constituted an absolute majority of the population of Palestine” in 1948. The Jewish population of Palestine was somewhere above 30 percent of the whole, he says.

That changed in 1948. Jewish militias and then the Israeli army carried out ethnic cleansing operations that sent 750,000 Palestinian refugees packing from the new state of Israel. But it is clear from Siegel’s wording that he was not referring to those refugees. After those Palestinians fled or were pushed off their lands, Israel had an overwhelming Jewish majority. It is unclear to me from Khalidi’s book whether Jews also constituted a majority within historical Palestine, though I believe they did.

But to the extent that Jews were the majority inside either set of borders, this was achieved by what Palestinians call the “Nakba”: the catastrophe, the reduction of the great urban populations of Palestinians in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem, and the destruction of 400-some Palestinian villages. The Palestinian refugee crisis, which is with us to this day.

It is dismaying that NPR continues to echo a false history that, while valorizing the experience of Jewish refugees, obliterates the Palestinian experience.

Thanks to Alex Kane for supplying research.

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About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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30 Responses

  1. Donald
    Donald
    March 12, 2014, 10:34 am

    The whole exercise is pretty silly. Obviously WWI had gigantic effects on what happened later, but we have absolutely no way of knowing what the alternative timelines would have looked like. And there are a virtually unlimited number of alternative timelines.

    As for the Nakba denial, I suspect it wasn’t so much denial as an exposure of the fact that it doesn’t even register with him as an event that matters. Obviously the birth of Israel matters to him or he wouldn’t have brought it up as something that would not have happened, but the Palestinians don’t come into his mind except indirectly, as shadowy unnamed people whose existence would keep Jews from being a majority.

    On second thought, it is denial. But maybe not conscious denial. In a way, that’s worse.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 12, 2014, 10:44 am

      I suspect you’re right. One of the defining features of the zionist pathology is the fact that they simply overlook or fail to consider the humanity and interest of Palestinians. To the zionist, the Palestinians only exist as antagonists and have no value other than as counterpoint to Jews. It’s quite evil.

  2. Cliff
    Cliff
    March 12, 2014, 10:39 am

    Old yuppie well-fed Zionist […] ignores impact of Nakba in creating a Jewish majority?

    That is definitely Nakba denial. There is no Jewish majority without the Nakba.

  3. Les
    Les
    March 12, 2014, 10:53 am

    Let us not forget Seigel’s hosting one of Israel’s most prominent racists, Avigdor Lieberman. NPR has a long history of serving as one of AIPAC’s many many silent partners among our media owners.

    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/12/npr-host-siegel-serves-as-moderator-for-avigdor-lieberman-at-saban-gala.html

  4. eljay
    eljay
    March 12, 2014, 11:06 am

    Mr. Siegel appears to overlook the fact that anti-Semitism is eternal; that Jews can be truly safe only in a “Jewish State”; and that the creation of Israel was, therefore, inevitable.

    Why does Mr. Siegel loathe himself so much that he is willing to overlook these truths? Why does he hate Jews so much?!

    • Pat Kittle
      Pat Kittle
      March 13, 2014, 1:30 am

      Yeah, that explains everything — “anti-Semitism” and “self-hating Jews.”

      Whenever Israel or Zionism is criticized, it’s someone else’s fault.

      Boo hoo.

      • thankgodimatheist
        thankgodimatheist
        March 13, 2014, 6:59 pm

        Pat..
        You obviously missed eljay’s sarcasm. New here?

      • eljay
        eljay
        March 13, 2014, 9:21 pm

        >> You obviously missed eljay’s sarcasm. New here?

        Me, sarcastic? Never! ;-)

      • Pat Kittle
        Pat Kittle
        March 14, 2014, 3:39 am

        Sorry, I let the batteries in my sarcasm detector go dead.

  5. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    March 12, 2014, 12:23 pm

    Without the flood of Jewish refugees of the 30’s there would not have been sufficient Jewish population to achieve a level where a war between the Palestinian Arabs and the Zionist Jews became inevitable. The expulsion of Arabs (Nakba) was part of the war that was fought. (Not necessarily an inevitable part of that war, but still a part of that war.) There would have been no war (no pressure to kick out the Brits after WWII) unless a certainly threshold of Jewish population was reached, even if that number by itself would not have constituted a majority.

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      March 12, 2014, 1:20 pm

      First, you make it sound like the only pressure to have the British removed from Palestine was due to the Jews. I doubt that a group which objected to the illegal occupation of their land by European Jews wouldn’t have also objected to the illegal occupation of their land by European Christians.

      Second, Siegal’s approach is also repulsive because it simply ignores the fact that in this alternate history, one of the great war crimes and crimes against humanity (the Nakba) would not have occurred, but focused on a trivial matter of demographics. It would be the equivalent of doing a piece on what-if WWII didn’t happen, and highlighting the fact that Gdansk would be known as Danzig and have more German speakers in it and not anywhere mentioning the fact that the Holocaust wouldn’t have happened.

    • Donald
      Donald
      March 12, 2014, 2:38 pm

      That’s all true, Yonah, but Siegel doesn’t say something like “Without WWI, there would never have been enough Jewish immigrants in Palestine to make a serious conflict with the Palestinians and the birth of Israel possible.” Or something like that.

      This is a small thing in itself. The problem is that the mainstream press in the US frequently does this–when they summarize something having to do with Israel, they usually frame it in a pro-Israel way. There isn’t necessarily any factual inaccuracy–it’s just the choice of what is said and what isn’t that creates a bias if it is always slanted in the same way. As another example, in Patrick Connor’s Mondoweiss post today he cites a recent piece by Kershner that summarizes the 2006 Lebanon War by mentioning thousands of rockets launched into Israel and nothing about any bombs, rockets, or cluster munitions fired or dropped on Lebanon by Israel. She does mention the 1000 Lebanese dead, but nothing about whether they were fighters or civilians or how they died, while she does mention the war started with the capture of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. So the specific acts of clear wrongdoing are identified as done by Hezbollah and everything else is just part of war. One sometimes hears Americans (including Obama) speak of rockets “raining” down on Sderot, but never about Israel rockets or bombs “raining” down on Gaza.

      My point being that it’s a bias one finds in the American press and in our politicians and judging from Cameron’s speech to the Israeli parliament today, some British politicians as well. These brief little summaries probably have some effect on the casual reader who isn’t into the I/P conflict–the takeaway message is that Israel’s settlement policy is a problem, but most of what one might call terrorism or war crimes are the acts of the Arab or Palestinian terror groups.

      • Bing Bong
        Bing Bong
        March 12, 2014, 3:47 pm

        “but Siegel doesn’t say something like “Without WWI, there would never have been enough Jewish immigrants in Palestine to make a serious conflict with the Palestinians and the birth of Israel possible.”

        Isn’t that what is implied? because he isn’t denying the conflict actually happened between Jewish refugees and Arabs in reality leading to a Jewish majority.

        I don’t understand how the wording is

        “not referring to those refugees”

        i.e. those after the Holocaust and not those of the ’30s when he mentions the Holocaust in the previous sentence.

        “In this counter-historical world, there is no Holocaust….but without a flood of refugees it remains a minority [Jewish] community there.”

        It isn’t denying anything, it just doesn’t go into detail about events and is another case of MW shouting Nakba denial at the internet.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      March 12, 2014, 2:45 pm

      @ yonah fredman
      And, so what: please explain, being sure to tell us where the Arab natives fit in…

    • LeaNder
      LeaNder
      March 12, 2014, 4:07 pm

      there would not have been sufficient Jewish population to achieve a level where a war between the Palestinian Arabs and the Zionist Jews became inevitable.

      Interesting way to put it. Meaning a sufficient ” level” of people to make a war necessary or achievable?

  6. smithgp
    smithgp
    March 12, 2014, 12:48 pm

    Phil’s population numbers:

    The number of Jews and Palestinians in Palestine at the onset of the Nakba in 1947 are usually given as about 660,000 and 1.3 million, respectively. About 750,000 of the 1.3 million Palestinians were expelled from their homes in the future state of Israel, but undoubtedly the great majority of them ended up in Gaza and the West Bank, which lie within historic Palestine. So Jews remained a minority in historic Palestine after the Nakba. Immediately afterward, the Jewish population was augmented by immigration of about 330,000 Mizrahi Jews, along with a lesser number of European Jews. After the second major wave of expulsion during the 1967 Six Day War (about 250,000 Palestinians), Jews finally became a majority in historic Palestine.

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      March 12, 2014, 6:41 pm

      Yep, but there’s no Palestinian version of Soros or Adelson to get out the message to Dick n Jane.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      March 13, 2014, 8:36 pm

      The number of Jews and Palestinians in Palestine at the onset of the Nakba in 1947 are usually given as about 660,000 and 1.3 million, respectively.

      And these are the numbers of Jews who were in Palestine. But the number of Jews who were Citizens of Palestine and therefore had a right to self determination in Palestine were about half of them. The other half were foreigners.

    • talknic
      talknic
      March 13, 2014, 10:50 pm

      George Smith “The number of Jews and Palestinians in Palestine at the onset of the Nakba in 1947 ….” … is a nonsense. All legal citizens of Palestine were Palestinian.

      It ought be ‘the number of Jews and non-Jews…’

  7. eljay
    eljay
    March 12, 2014, 2:58 pm

    >> The problem is that the mainstream press in the US frequently does this–when they summarize something having to do with Israel, they usually frame it in a pro-Israel way.

    The story: Rapist’s victim – chained in his basement for months – slashes in desperation at the rapist with a piece of rusted metal she managed to dig out of the dirty mattress.

    The pro-rapist spin: Violent female attacker terrorizes Mr. X – a well-respected member of the community and first cousin to the daughter of a Holocaust survivor – in his home, inflicting numerous lacerations.

  8. Kathleen
    Kathleen
    March 12, 2014, 3:25 pm

    I don’t know Phil but that comment you put up of Siegel’s sounds less like the gatekeeper for Israel’s horrific actions that Siegel generally is. Have not listened to the piece but in that comment he actually calls Palestine Palestine, imagines a world where the WWII genocide did not take place and leaves Palestine in tact with a small group of Jews living peacefully (is what I have read) with their Arab and Christian neighbors. Sure does not sound like Siegel but it is. Going to listen to whole piece.

    • March 12, 2014, 3:46 pm

      God knows I’m no fan of Siegel’s, but I believe Kathleen has it right. Had he substituted the word “small” for “minority” all would have been right.

  9. bilal a
    bilal a
    March 13, 2014, 1:39 am

    The Nakba was a left wing ethno-centric expression, which followed closely in time, the Soviet genocides , and the National Socialist holocaust, all of which could not have happened without majority populations’ non-intervention. Siegel’s Orwellian omissions of history are not unique to NPR.

    —–

    he [Solzhenitsyn] added: “But it is impossible to find the answer to the eternal question: who is to be blamed, who led us to our death? To explain the actions of the Kiev cheka [secret police] only by the fact that two thirds were Jews, is certainly incorrect.”
    Solzhenitsyn breaks last taboo of the revolution
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/jan/25/russia.books

    • Citizen
      Citizen
      March 13, 2014, 6:44 pm

      @ bilal a
      We interested Americans are still waiting for Solzhenitsyn’s 200 Years Together to be published in English. That fact says all you need to know, yes?

      • bilal a
        bilal a
        March 14, 2014, 11:17 am

        That’s a canard and conspiracy theory.

      • Citizen
        Citizen
        March 14, 2014, 1:21 pm

        @ bilal a
        No. It’s simply a fact. Despite Solshenitzyn’s world known reputation as a great writer of literature, including politically-inspired literature –just google his works, the US publishing industry has not published his book 200 Years Together in English translation, while even Germany, with it’s laws against Holocaust denial, has done so. Please explain why that fact is a canard or conspiracy theory. Thanks.

    • annie
      annie
      March 14, 2014, 1:48 pm

      The Nakba was a left wing ethno-centric expression

      what? who moderated this comment. are you being serious?

  10. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 13, 2014, 5:02 am

    “SIEGEL: In this counter-historical world, there is no Holocaust. The small Jewish settlement in Palestine continues, but without a flood of refugees it remains a minority community there.”

    So, he’s directly implying, in the historical world, there is a Holocaust. [And so] The large Jewish settlement in Palestine continues [Expanded], with a flood of refugees it remains [Is} a majority community there.

    This is saying the majority Jews now in historic Palestine resulted from the Holocaust. But in fact the Jews gained majority status not just because they poured into the land, but because they also kicked out so many native non-Jews. Yes it is a rather cryptic way of denying the Nakba, denying even the existence of the Palestinians. If unintentional, it’s just plain ignorant. I doubt he’s ignorant. The Palestinians don’t matter to him.

  11. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 15, 2014, 11:09 am

    I notice that Gilad Atzmon has confused AIPAC with the first national Summit on reacessing the US-Israel “special relationship,” so recently held. He mounted an expose of the so-called “holocaust denier” online with a six minute clip from said Summit, but he identified the panel as AIPAC-sponsored. It’s exactly the contrary. The Summit is totally contradictory to AIPAC agenda. http://www.veteranstoday.com/2014/03/14/when-pc-is-gone-truth-prevails-and-shoa-panic-is-detected-video/

    We had a chat about the summit on this blog, but now replies are cut off to this thread, so I put it here. There’s a relevance since the so-called “Holocaust Denier” did speak about how Americans are not allowed to publicly contest some aspects of the official narrative of the Holocaust. The third rail. Phil has not commented on what happened during that time at the Summit. But regular commenters did, including me.

  12. Pat Kittle
    Pat Kittle
    March 16, 2014, 2:51 am

    Spiro Agnew got one thing right, calling the media an “effete corps of impudent snobs.”

    And no one embodies that appellation better than NPR, especially that insufferably unctuous twit Robert Siegel.

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