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The ‘NYT’ gives another book review to a rightwing Zionist, who denies the Nakba

Media Analysis

Last week it was a little shocking to read a review in the New York Times of Bari Weiss’s book on anti-Semitism written by a rightwinger who raved about Weiss’s bravery in supporting Israel but sermonized against LGBTQ rights because they are not in the Bible.

Judaism fiercely opposed such an acceptance of sexual diversity, against which it championed the procreative family, the taming of anarchic passions, and the cosmically ordained nature of normative gender distinctions

The Times usually saves us from homophobia. Not in the case of reviewer Hillel Halkin, a religious Israeli-American of 80.

This week it is shocking to see a review of Tom Segev’s biography of David Ben-Gurion written by another ardent old-school Zionist that suggests that the Nakba or Palestinian catastrophe, in which 750,000 Palestinian refugees were created, was all of the Arabs’ making. Francine Klagsbrun writes that Segev makes the “questionable” suggestion that there was “a planned and systematic scheme to push out the Arabs.”

In reality, the exodus of the Arabs from the designated Jewish state — the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem — is in itself a hotly debated subject. Scholars disagree about how many villagers left of their own accord and how many were expelled by Israeli commanders. There is no evidence that Ben-Gurion gave a central order to evacuate them all. He seemed surprised at first by the emptying villages, only later regarding the Arab flight as a boon to the military.

The idea that the Palestinian refugee problem was created by Palestinians who decided to leave “of their own accord” is a staggering denial of a historical human rights atrocity, in the pages of the New York Times. Deniers of other atrocities would never get such a platform from the Times.

We’d like to point out that in both cases, the conservative prejudice on the part of the reviewer was entirely predictable.

Halkin is noted for fire-and-brimstone zealotry. His book “Letters to an American Jewish Friend” (1977) expresses contempt for intermarrying American Jews as traitors to Jewish history, and says that Jews who don’t move to Israel are not shouldering their duty to the Jewish people, including their obligation to create Jewish babies to outpace the production of Palestinian babies.

“[W]e are engaged in a population race with an Arab minority whose outcome can prove as fateful to us as that of any military or political development. . . The plain truth is that Israel can continue to behave in a relatively democratic manner toward its Arab minority, to say nothing of extending its civil rights further, only if the latter does not grow proportionally large as to call into question the distinctively Jewish character of the state. . . “

The book cited Jewish biblical claims to Palestine as land-grants, diminished Palestinian suffering as far less than Jewish suffering, and described the Nakba as “our unavoidably violent return to this land.”

Francine Klagsbrun is also an ardent Zionist who has little concern for Palestinian human rights. Her book “Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel” came out last year and never uses the word Nakba, but describes the expulsion and flight of Palestinians as a kind of miracle for the Jewish state.

“To the amazement of Jewish leaders,” Klagsbrun writes in that biography, as the Haganah (the Zionist army) approached Haifa, Tiberias, Safed and other cities in spring 1948, “tens of thousands of Arabs fled.” For decades to come,

controversy would swirl around the question of whether the Arabs had abandoned their homes because their leaders ordered them to, Jewish armies expelled them, or fears of a Jewish conquest overwhelmed them. At various times, all these factors came into play. In this early stage, however, the Haganah seems to have forcibly evacuated very few villages; inhabitants of others fled on their own.

Klagsbrun also dismisses the massacre at Deir Yassin in April 1948 as an aberration that fostered irrational panic among Palestinians. “Horrified, the Hagana and Jewish Agency strongly condemned the action,” she writes. Palestinians fled Haifa even as the Haganah assured them they could live as “equal and free” citizens. Golda Meir is seen begging Arabs not to leave Haifa.

The only answer to this propaganda is, If it was such a big mistake, how come the refugees weren’t welcome back to their property? Klagsbrun sneers at the idea that refugees had any “rights,” and valorizes Golda Meir’s statement that the right of return would mean the end of Israel. That premise for the state’s continued existence has made more than one person an anti-Zionist.

Klagsbrun also wrote a piece earlier this summer, The Imperative for an American Jewish Zionism, in which she describes Zionism as a liberation movement for the “entire Jewish people,” says Zionism has “grounded” American Jews, and adds that Americans and Israelis must be “partners in Zionism.”

So Klagsbrun’s dismissive review of a book by one of Israel’s courageous “New Historians” was completely predictable.

That’s the bottom line here. The New York Times, which 60 and 70 years ago was an anti-Zionist newspaper, continues to demonstrate its dedication to Zionism when Israel is under great intellectual and journalistic challenge. The Times has five or six Zionist columnists, but no anti-Zionists to speak of. Four Times writers have had sons serving in the Israeli Defence Forces. Last year the paper published four defenses of Israel’s slaughter of Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza, a propaganda service it would never provide for Palestinian armed resistance. Last week the Times said it was important for Benny Gantz to replace Netanyahu so that Israel could reverse the “dangerous shift” of its image, which is prompting Democrats to start challenging support for Israel. The Dems are doing so because many progressives regard this as an important issue. The Times is dug in, and dug in for a reason.

Thanks to Donald Johnson, who comments on the Segev review: “This is history these people are playing with. The NYT is telling its liberal readers that the Nakba is still a subject up for debate in its basics, and the expulsion of Palestinians is a notion put forth by radical revisionist historians with controversial views.”

 

 

James North and Philip Weiss

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23 Responses

  1. bcg on September 27, 2019, 4:19 pm

    Tom Segev: ” ‘Disappearing’ the Arabs lay at the heart of the Zionist dream, and was also a necessary condition of its realization.” – from page 21 of Ben White’s “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginners Guide”. (“One Palestine, Complete” by Tom Segev, page 405)

    • Misterioso on September 28, 2019, 10:40 am

      @bcg, etal

      Francine Klagsbrun, you are deceitful!!

      Briefly:
      In December 1947, a Jewish official with the Palestine government was asked by Glubb Pasha, the famous British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion if he was concerned about the fact that the Jewish state would have so many Arab inhabitants. The official replied: “Oh no! That will be fixed. A few calculated massacres will soon get rid of them.” (Sir Bagot Glubb, A Soldier with the Arabs, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957, p. 81)

      In 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)[1] conducted a methodical survey that determined at least 726,000 Palestinians were made refugees during and just prior to the 1948 Arab/Israeli war. As this figure did not include several thousand unregistered refugees, the generally accepted total was revised to 750,000. However, according to an official with Israel’s government at the time, even this number is too low: “Walter Eytan, then Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, referred to the UNRWA registration of 726,000 [refugees] as ‘meticulous’ and believed that the ‘real number was close to 800,000’.” (Norman Finkelstein, “Debate on the 1948 Exodus” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. XXI, number 1, autumn, 1991, footnote #4, p. 86.)

      On May 15/48, Israeli forces quickly conquered West Jerusalem which, including about 30,000 evicted the previous March, resulted in the expulsion of a total of over 60,000 Palestinians from the city and its environs to East Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem in the West Bank or across the border into Jordan. “[O]nly about 750 non-Jews remained in the area.” (The Fall of the New City,” by Nathan Krystall, Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies & Badil Resource Center, ed. Salim Tamari, 1999, pp. 111 and 134) Palestinians expelled from West Jerusalem would never be permitted to return.

      Between passage of the recommendatory only UNGA Partition Plan (Res. 181) and the declaration of the state of Israel effective 15 May, 60,000 Palestinians were expelled from Haifa by Zionist forces as were 75,000 from Jaffa in late April and early May. Many other Palestinian towns and villages were violently depopulated by Zionist forces and several documented massacres of Palestinians were carried out by Jewish forces, e.g., Deir Yassin.

      To again quote eye-witness, Glubb Pasha, commander of the Arab Legion: “The story which Jewish publicity at first persuaded the world to accept, that the Arab refugees left voluntarily, is not true. Voluntary emigrants do not leave their homes with only the clothes they stand in. People who have decided to move do not do so in such a hurry that they lose other members of their family – husband losing sight of his wife, or parents of their children. The fact is that the majority left in panic flight, to escape massacre. They were in fact helped on their way by the occasional massacres…just enough to keep them running.” (John Bagot Glubb, A Soldier With the Arabs, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1957)

      To quote John H. Davis, who served as Commission General of UNRWA at the time: “An exhaustive examination of the minutes, resolutions, and press releases of the Arab League, of the files of leading Arabic newspapers, of day-to-day monitoring of broadcasts from Arab capitals and secret Arab radio stations, failed to reveal a single reference, direct or indirect, to an order given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave. All the evidence is to the contrary; that the Arab authorities continuously exhorted the Palestinian Arabs not to leave the country…. Panic and bewilderment played decisive parts in the flight. But the extent to which the refugees were savagely driven out by the Israelis as part of a deliberate master-plan has been insufficiently recognized.” (John H. Davis, The Evasive Peace, London: Murray, 1968)

      Mr. Davis’s observations are confirmed by the IDF Intelligence Branch Report dated 30 June 1948, entitled “The Arab Exodus from Palestine in the Period 1 December 1947 to 1 June 1948.” After studying the document, Israeli historian Benny Morris stated that “the Intelligence Branch report…goes out of its way to stress that the [Palestinian] exodus was contrary to the political-strategic desires of both the Arab Higher Committee and the governments of the neighboring Arab states. These, according to the report, struggled against the exodus – threatening, cajoling, and imposing punishments, all to no avail.” (Benny Morris, “The Causes and Character of the Arab Exodus from Palestine: The Israel Defense Force Intelligence Board Analysis of June 1948,: Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. XXII, no. 1, January 1986)

      What happened in Palestine in 1947 and 1948 was described by eye-witness Nathan Chofshi, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who arrived in Palestine in 1908 in the same group as Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name, David Gruen):

      “…[W]e old Jewish settlers in Palestine who witnessed the flight [know] how and in what manner we, Jews, forced the Arabs to leave cities and villages…some of them were driven out by force of arms; others were made to leave by deceit, lying and false promises. It is enough to cite the cities of Jaffa, Lydda, Ramle, Beersheba, Acre from among numberless others.” (Jewish Newsletter, February 9, 1959).

      Chofshi was deeply ashamed of what his fellow Jews did to the Palestinians: “We came and turned the native Arabs into tragic refugees. And still we dare to slander and malign them, to besmirch their name. Instead of being deeply ashamed of what we did and of trying to undo some of the evil we committed…we justify our terrible acts and even attempt to glorify them.” (ibid)

      Furthermore:
      On 5 June 1967, Israel launched a massive land and air war against Egypt and thereby, Jordan and Syria who shared mutual defence pacts with Egypt. The war ended with Israel occupying the rest of Palestine (East Jerusalem/the Old City, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) as well as Syria’s Golan Heights, Lebanon’s Shebaa Farms and Egypt’s Sinai.

      The 1967 war also “…left in its wake 210,000 new refugees, and again made homeless another 113,000 Palestinians who had already been refugees from the 1948 war.” (Donald Neff, Fallen Pillars, Institute for Palestine Studies Washington, D.C. 1995, p. 81) Of those families that managed to remain, many found themselves destitute because they had lost their men-folk during the war. 100,000 Syrians and 35,000 Egyptians were also expelled from Sinai and the Golan Heights and made into refugees. (Frank Epp, Whose Land Is Palestine? McClelland and Stewart Limited, Toronto and Montreal, 1970, p. 215) Harvard Professor Walid Khalidi puts the number of Syrians expelled from the Golan Heights at 120,000. “The Prospects of Peace in the Middle East,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Winter 2003, p. 53)

      During the years immediately after the 1967 war, Israel’s brutal occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, together with its illegal confiscation of land and dynamiting of homes, caused more than 200,000 additional Palestinians to flee, further swelling the refugee population. “These were followed in subsequent years by individual expulsions. Thus, the total number of [Palestinians] who fled their homes or were expelled in this second exodus, was about 416,000 persons. This does not include Syrians expelled from the Golan Heights and Egyptians from the Sinai Peninsula.” (Sami Hadawi, Bitter Harvest, p. 146)

      • weesograce on September 30, 2019, 6:41 pm

        Enough already. When will the Great Deception of the Century and Denials End? STORY SETTING: December 1st, 1947. Ramallah Palestine.. A darkened room which awaits an impending birth. CHARACTERS: A young mother, her mother, and a midwife. Palestinian Arab Victims and Casualties. Jewish and Brethren Zionist Invaders, Militias, Ambushers, Strangers. CONFLICT: Interminable Catastrophe. Death, Suffering, Complications, Betrayal. PROBLEM: The birth-giving Mother could not travel to Jerusalem Hospital to birth her second child (a daughter) in the midst of danger, battling fighters, threats, and gunfire. The Mother’s Mother and Midwife tend to the Mother-To-Be. Newborn wastes no time entering the hemorrhaging Holy Land. She is prompted out and into aberrations, turmoil, mayhem, death, and destruction, in the once intermittently peaceful Ancient Land. Welcome to your people’s Nakbeh, young one! PROBLEM: Decades and decades since this wintry night, the Mother (and thousands upon thousands of survivors and millions of refugees) painfully and painstakingly tell and retell the loss of lives; the loss of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers; the loss of land, the loss of identity; the loss of the ancestral homeland; the loss of freedom, the loss of wellbeing, of dignity, of home, of health, of elders, of children, of babies, of youth, OF HUMANITY. Meanwhile, the ‘Peace-Waiting World’ watches, witnesses, and consumes the false and delusioned narratives, tropes, and rhetoric of the mentally-wounded and guiltless messengers– these misguided, deceived, belligerent, and selectively deaf-and-blind “Recorders of the Then-and-Now History.” Sometimes boastful and arrogant…often sounding superior, supreme, authoritative, exceptional, and exempt from criticism and civilized, open debate. Defiance, intransigence, denial, willfulness, deceit, powerfulness, hubris, mendacity, and might RULE, as God’s fearlessness is ubiquitously and deliberately at work. THE END.

    • kev on September 28, 2019, 11:49 am

      Disappearing the Palestinians is still at the heart of the Zionist dream. That is what the occupation, settlements, annexing land without annexing (giving full citizenship to) the people, denying building permits, demolishing buildings, wells, whole villages, etc, is all about.

      I often wonder whether, if the Zionists ever finally succeed in full ethnic cleansing of the Greater Israel to establish their perfect Jewish state, will they one day in the future look back and cry crocodile tears and write about how terrible it was that the Palestinians forced them to cause such injuries because they wouldn’t just surrender and leave voluntarily and hand the keys to their oppressors. Something along the lines of, “cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children”.

      Disappearing the Palestinians is existentially essential to Zionism, which is part of what makes Zionism, an ethnoreligious supremacist nationalist and expansionist ideology, immoral and unethical. Ethnic cleansing and genocide are crimes.

  2. JaapBo on September 27, 2019, 4:56 pm

    strange, to have a book by a professional historian reviewed by an amateur, and a very biased one

    • Darcha on September 28, 2019, 12:20 am

      Strange to imagine that an MA in art history makes a hack into a ‘professional historian’!

      • Sibiriak on September 28, 2019, 12:42 am

        Darcha: Strange to imagine that an MA in art history makes a hack into a ‘professional historian’

        The “professional historian” in question is Tom Segev.
        ———————————-
        Tom Segev (Hebrew: תום שגב‎; born March 1, 1945) is an Israeli historian, author and journalist. He is associated with Israel’s New Historians, a group challenging many of the country’s traditional narratives.

        […]Tom Segev was born in Jerusalem to parents who had fled Nazi Germany in 1933. He earned a BA in history and political science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a PhD in history from Boston University in the 1970s.[1]

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Segev

  3. MHughes976 on September 28, 2019, 10:19 am

    The decisive fact was the exclusion of non-Jews who has fled the war zone from their former homes. There was no right to do this. It doesn’t matter whether it was planned for decades or was a stroke of evil genius on the spur of the moment. There has never been any resolution of the problems thus created.

  4. Elizabeth Block on September 28, 2019, 12:09 pm

    This is hardly controversial any more – unless, of course, you are a Zionist intent on defending Israel right or wrong. Uri Avnery, who was a young soldier in 1948, found Arab homes with hot food on the tables.
    And Arabs who fled after Deir Yassin were hardly irrational.

  5. Ossinev on September 28, 2019, 1:40 pm

    “Scholars disagree about how many villagers left of their own accord and how many were expelled by Israeli commanders”

    Nakba denial is rapidly reaching the status of Holocaust denial.

    Since the actions/inactions of the British Administration at the time were pivotal to the horrors which were unleashed on a virtually defenceless native Palestinian population perhaps it is long past time for a Nakba memorial sculpture to be erected in Central London not withstanding the screams , shrieks and weeping and wailing about IHRA standard breaching “Anti – Semitism” which would no doubt erupt.

    As for “leaving of their own accord”. Arguably as sick and as twisted as a Holocaust denier claiming that Jews went to the camps of their own accord.

    • MHughes976 on September 28, 2019, 4:30 pm

      Leaving a war zone, should one not be a combatant, is a rational and rightful action. Everyone has a right to leave and return home, that’s what distinguishes a home from a prison.

  6. jon s on September 28, 2019, 4:46 pm

    Prof. Benny Morris made a significant contribution to our understanding of the events that led to the Palestinian Nakba, town-by -town, village-by village:

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0521009677/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i4

  7. jon s on September 28, 2019, 4:53 pm

    A Happy New Year , Shana Tova, to all!
    May the new year be a year of peace!

    • eljay on September 28, 2019, 8:43 pm

      || jon s: … May the new year be a year of peace! ||

      Better yet: May it be a year of justice, accountability and equality, in I-P and throughout the world.

    • philweiss on September 29, 2019, 10:19 am

      And to you!

  8. ronron on September 29, 2019, 5:29 pm

    and how is Francine Klagsbrun’s Nakba denial effectively different than the Nakba denial and outrageous propaganda spouted by ‘libZionist’ supremacists, some of which like Peter Beinart are being hailed and promoted here by you, Phil, on these very pages?

    I’ll also add that Nakba denial is akin to Holocaust denial and they come from the exact same place.

  9. Qualtrough on October 1, 2019, 9:35 am

    “There is no evidence that Ben-Gurion gave a central order…”

    This sounds like it was ripped from the pages of Storm Front.

  10. weesograce on October 2, 2019, 2:25 pm

    Enough already. When will the Great Deception of the Century and Denials End? STORY SETTING: December 1st, 1947. Ramallah Palestine.. A darkened room which awaits an impending birth. CHARACTERS: A young mother, her mother, and a midwife. Palestinian Arab Victims and Casualties. Jewish and Brethren Zionist Invaders, Militias, Ambushers, Strangers. CONFLICT: Interminable Catastrophe. Death, Suffering, Complications, Betrayal. PROBLEM: The birth-giving Mother could not travel to Jerusalem Hospital to birth her second child (a daughter) in the midst of danger, battling fighters, threats, and gunfire. The Mother’s Mother and Midwife tend to the Mother-To-Be. Newborn wastes no time entering the hemorrhaging Holy Land. She is prompted out and into aberrations, turmoil, mayhem, death, and destruction, in the once intermittently peaceful Ancient Land. Welcome to your people’s Nakbeh, young one! PROBLEM: Decades and decades since this wintry night, the Mother (and thousands upon thousands of survivors and millions of refugees) painfully and painstakingly tell and retell the loss of lives; the loss of fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers; the loss of land, the loss of identity; the loss of the ancestral homeland; the loss of freedom, the loss of wellbeing, of dignity, of home, of health, of elders, of children, of babies, of youth, OF HUMANITY. Meanwhile, the ‘Peace-Waiting World’ watches, witnesses, and consumes the false and delusioned narratives, tropes, and rhetoric of the mentally-wounded and guiltless messengers– these misguided, deceived, belligerent, and selectively deaf-and-blind “Recorders of the Then-and-Now History.” Sometimes boastful and arrogant…often sounding superior, supreme, authoritative, exceptional, and exempt from criticism and civilized, open debate. Defiance, intransigence, denial, willfulness, deceit, powerfulness, hubris, mendacity, and might RULE, as God’s fearlessness is ubiquitously and deliberately at work. THE END.

  11. Hemlockroid on October 4, 2019, 11:41 am

    it was Secretary of State George Marshall who set him straight. Marshall reminded the representative that the “Arab refugee problem … began before outbreak of Arab-Israeli hostilities. A significant portion of Arab refugees fled from their homes owing to Jewish occupation of Haifa on April 21-22 and to Jewish armed attack against Jaffa April 25.” Marshall’s message went on to warn that the “leaders of Israel would make a grave miscalculation if they thought callous treatment of this tragic issue could pass unnoticed by world opinion.”

  12. Ottawa observer on October 6, 2019, 4:38 pm

    My understanding is that some Palestinians were massacred, some were driven out at gunpoint, some fled in fear, and some even left before the UN vote (especially those who had money or who had family outside Mandate Palestine).

    I know some in this last category.

    They were not so very different from German Jews who sensed trouble, sold their houses and escaped before the holocaust.

    But, no matter how or when they left NONE were allowed to return.

    • MHughes976 on October 8, 2019, 11:51 am

      It was indeed their exclusion, which was morally horrible, that made all the difference and transformed Palestine into a Jewish State.

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