Wednesday, August 23, 2017

REDFLAG: Debunking the myths of Israel/Palestine

Dear friends,
please find below my latest article, Debunking the Myths of Israel/Palestine, which was published by RedFlag earlier this month.

In solidarity, Kim

Debunking the myths of Israel/Palestine 
By Kim Bullimore
RedFlag: 5 August 2017

Over the past 120 years, the Zionist movement and later the Israeli state have constructed a web of fallacies that surround the creation of Israel and the ongoing conflict, and which also seek to justify Israel’s ethnic cleansing and oppression of the Palestinian people.

This web of historical and current fallacies, which are often repeated by the capitalist media and Western governments seeking to extend their imperialist outreach in the Middle East, try not only to mystify the origins of the conflict but also to ensure that a just solution can never be reached.

Only through debunking these myths, separating the historical truth from the Zionist fiction, can we understand the origin and causes of the conflict.

Myth #1: The conflict is religious

Zionist mythology often casts the Israel-Palestine conflict as a centuries-old religious conflict between Jews and Palestinian Arabs. This is a historical fiction. The reality is a settler-colonial conflict, which emerged only in the early 20th century.

Zionism, the ideological foundation on which the Israeli state is built, emerged in the late 19th century in reaction to European anti-Semitism and waves of anti-Jewish pogroms.
Reacting to the persecution faced by Jews in the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires, a small section of the European Jewish petty bourgeoisie began to subscribe to the idea that anti-Semitism was not a result of historical developments but an inevitable occurrence as long as Jews lived among non-Jews. Consequently, the Zionists began a campaign to establish a “national” homeland, despite the fact that they did not constitute a nation, but a religious and cultural group.

Theodore Herzl, the founding father of the Zionist movement, understood that the world was already carved up by competing colonial powers and that it might not be possible to establish a Jewish “national homeland” in Palestine. Writing in his 1896 political tract, The Jewish State, Herzl asked, “Shall we choose Palestine or Argentina?”

He noted that the Zionist movement would “take what is given us, and what is selected by the Jewish public opinion”. Herzl also explored the possibility of establishing a national homeland in Angola, Kenya and North Africa. The year before his death in 1904, Herzl also enthusiastically accepted a British offer to establish a Jewish state in Uganda. However, in 1905, the Zionist Congress rejected the plan in favour of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.

Myth #2: Israel is not a colonial settler state

Settler colonial societies are a distinct type of imperialist formation, which are premised on the racist elimination of the indigenous population through various means, including ethnic cleansing, genocide and/or assimilation.

Unlike other forms of colonialism that centre on the exploitation of resources, settler colonialism is primarily concerned with the control of territory and the elimination of the indigenous population in order to replace it with a settler population. As the late Australian academic and leading settler-colonial theorist, Patrick Wolfe, notes: “settler colonialism destroys to replace”.

Before, during and after Israel’s foundation, the Zionist movement sought to control as much of historic Palestine as possible, establishing a permanent settler population by eliminating and replacing the indigenous Palestinian Arab population.

Prior to the 1890s, Jews made up less than 4 percent of the population of Palestine. The rest were Arabic-speaking Muslims and Christians. Initially, the Zionist movement attempted to buy land from Palestinian and Arab landowners, expelling Palestinian tenant farmers and families who had worked the land for centuries. However, it soon became clear that the majority of Palestinians had no interest in selling their land to a European immigrant population.

When, in 1947, the UN decided to partition Palestine against the will of the indigenous Palestinian Arabs, proposing to hand over 54 percent of the territory to the Zionists, Jews still made up only 33 percent of the population, while Palestinian Arabs were 67 percent of the 1,845,000 residents. Less than a year later, by the end of 1948, the demographic table had been inverted, Jewish settlers now being a majority.

This was because, in the months leading up to the proposed partition, between December 1947 and April 1948, Zionist militias carried out strategic attacks on Palestinian cities and villages, terrorising and killing thousands of Palestinian civilians. Zionist militias would eventually forcibly expel 1 million Arabs from 418 of 476 Palestinian cities, towns and villages, with 750,000 fleeing to neighbouring states, while another 150,000 became internally displaced refugees inside the newly established Zionist state.

Of the 418 Palestinian villages and towns ethnically cleansed by Israel, 385 were completely destroyed as Israel seized control of 78 percent of historic Palestine.

Regardless of whether Zionist settlers attempted to purchase land or forcibly take it as they did in 1948, the settler colonial dynamic of the Zionist movement and the Israeli state remains the same. In both cases, the Zionist movement sought to colonise a territory permanently by replacing the original population.

Today, Israel remains an expansionist settler colonial state. In the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem, Israel continues to steal Palestinian land and ethnically cleanse Palestinians in order to build illegal Jewish-only colonies, while inside Israel it seeks to ethnically cleanse between 70,000 and 100,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel from their homelands in the Naqab (Negev), to make way for Jewish settlements and towns.

A 2012 report by the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to housing condemned Israel, saying, “From the Galilee and the Negev to east Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities promote a territorial development model that excludes, discriminates against and displaces minorities, particularly affecting Palestinian communities, side by side with the accelerated development of predominantly Jewish settlements”.

Myth #3: Israel is the plucky David fighting the Arab Goliath

Zionist mythology has consistently painted Israel as being locked in a David vs. Goliath battle for survival, aggressive Arab states seeking to destroy it at every turn. Even today, the birth of the Zionist state in 1948 and the 1967 war in which Israel seized control of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem are depicted in this manner.

This narrative was not systematically challenged until the emergence of Israel’s “new historians” in the 1980s. The new historians such as Avi Shlaim have revealed that the “miraculous” birth of the Israeli state in the face of invading Arab hordes that “enjoyed an overwhelming numerical superiority” is a myth.

According to Shlaim, in mid-May 1948, “the total number of Arab troops, both regular and irregular, operating in the Palestine theatre was under 25,000, whereas the Israel Defence Force (IDF) fielded over 35,000 troops”. By mid-July, Israel’s troops numbered 65,000, increasing to 96,000 by December 1948. In addition, the Zionists forces were better trained and disciplined than the Arab forces. As Shlaim notes, “[T]he final outcome of the war was therefore not a miracle but a faithful reflection of the underlying military balance in the Palestine theatre”.

Similarly, Zionist mythology portrays Israel as facing imminent destruction at the hands of Arab aggressors in 1967. According to Israel’s then foreign minister, Abba Eban – in a speech to the UN on 19 June 1967 justifying Israel’s seizure of Palestinian, Egyptian and Syrian territory – the Zionist state was faced with a clear choice “to live or perish, to defend the national existence or forfeit it for all time”. However, the Six Day War launched by Israel on 5 June against Egypt, Syria and Jordan was not a war of self-defence but of expansion, allowing Israel to seize and occupy the rest of historic Palestine.

As Israeli historian Ilan Pappe notes in his most recent book, The Ten Myths of Israel, ever since 1948 sections of Israel’s military and political elites had been seeking an opportunity to seize what was left of Palestine in order to establish a “greater Israel”. According to Pappe, the 1967 war provided “the best opportunity” to do this.

Prior to the war starting, both Israel and the United States were aware that Egyptian president Gamal Nasser was not seeking war. At the time of the Egyptian troop movement, Yitzhak Rabin, the chief of Israeli military forces, informed his government that although Egyptian troops had been deployed to the Sinai, they were not in an offensive position and that “Nasser did not want war”. Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin, who served as a cabinet minister in the “unity” government during the Six Day War, later admitted that Israel was the aggressor, saying “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him”.
Israeli president and former defence minister Ezer Weizmann, who served as Israel’s chief of military operations in 1967 and was instrumental in launching the June war, similarly admitted that Israel faced no threat of destruction and that Israel’s military superiority ensured that, had Egypt attacked first, it would have “suffered complete defeat” within 13 hours.

In 1972, general Mattiyahu Peled, who led Israel’s war efforts in 1967, once and for all debunked the myth that Israel went to war because it faced imminent destruction. According to Peled, the claim was a “bluff”, and Israel faced no such threat. Peled later condemned Israel’s actions as a “cynical campaign of territorial expansion”.

Today, Israel fields one of the strongest military forces in the world. According to Global Firepower’s 2014 ranking, Israel’s military capabilities ranked 11 out of 133 countries, four spots ahead of Canada and nine spots ahead of Australia. Since World War Two, Israel has been the largest cumulative recipient of US foreign aid. In 2016, the USA signed a new 10-year military assistance deal with Israel, the largest in US history, worth $38 billion. The deal was a 27 percent increase on the previous military assistance deal between Israel and the USA, signed in 2007.

US imperialism seeks to control the vast oil and natural gas reserves of the Middle East. In this effort, Israel became US imperialism’s chief ally, the US-Israel alliance being based on a shared political interest – opposition to any form of Arab radicalism that might threaten either US or Israeli domination in the region.

Myth #4: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East

Israel is often touted as “the only democracy in the Middle East”. But far from being a democracy for all its citizens, Israel is an ethnocratic state that does not afford all of its citizens the same rights. One of the first laws passed by the newly established Israel in 1949 was the “Absentees” property law, which allowed the confiscation of land and property belonging to more than 1 million Palestinians who had been forced to flee their homeland by Zionist militias in 1948.

Between 1949 and 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel were forced to live under martial law. Unlike Jewish citizens of the Zionist state, Palestinian citizens were regularly subject to curfews and political repression, Israeli military governors ruling over the lives of Palestinians with impunity. Despite being citizens of Israel, Palestinians could not leave or enter their towns without permits, restrictions were placed on their education and employment, and political activity and organisations were banned.

Writing for Haaretz on 16 June 2013, Palestinian activist and novelist Odeh Bisharat recounted his own family’s experience under Israel’s military regime between 1949 and 1966. In addition to the daily struggle to obtain exit permits to work in “Jewish cities”, Bisharat noted that Shin Bet (Israel’s secret police) and its network of collaborators/informants were omnipresent in the lives of all Palestinians, ensuring that “the military administration settled in our homes, nestled between the sheets of our beds, between father and son, man and wife, until everything seemed suspect”.

According to researcher Sarah Ozacky-Lazar, Israel’s military rule “penetrated all areas of civilian life and became a state instrument for political, economic and social control of the Arab minority”.

Despite martial law formally ending in 1966, Palestinian citizens of Israel are still not afforded the same democratic and civil rights as Jewish citizens. According to Israeli human rights group Adalah – the Legal Centre of the Arab Minority – since 1948, more than 50 discriminatory laws have been enacted against Palestinians, who make up 20 percent of Israel’s population.

In 2015 and 2016, Israel enacted a further seven laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens and Palestinians living under Zionist occupation in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Adalah explains that these new laws “undermine the most basic legal protections, rights and freedoms, including the rights to vote and to be elected, to political expression, essential procedural safeguards for detainees, and to ownership of property”.

Among the laws was one that allows the Jewish majority in the Knesset (parliament) to oust elected Arab members and their political lists purely on the basis of political or ideological considerations. According to Adalah, the law is the “latest attempt by the government to delegitimise the elected political representatives of the Palestinian minority in Israel”, following a range of laws including the “Electoral Threshold Law”, “Nakba Law” and “Boycott Law” in order to silence the Palestinian Arab public.

The reality of Israeli apartheid

Despite more than 50 laws legally enshrining discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel, its governments and their supporters deny the apartheid nature of the Zionist state, claiming Israel is nothing like South Africa.

While Israel has not sought to impose exactly the same apartheid regime on Palestinians that existed in South Africa, it imposes a system of rights and privileges according to ethnic and religious identity, which fits the definition of apartheid enshrined in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
According to the convention, apartheid consists of denying members of a racial group the right to life, the infliction of arbitrary arrest, illegal imprisonment, serious bodily and/or mental harm (such as torture or degrading punishment), the exploitation of racial groups by forced labour and the imposition of living conditions aimed at destruction – in part or whole – of the group.

Furthermore, Article Two of the convention identifies apartheid as denying “basic human rights and freedoms” to racial groups and the implementation of “any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country”, including the right to nationality, education, employment, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association and freedom of residence and movement.

While Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to a range of apartheid laws in areas as wide ranging as land, employment and political activity, one of Israel’s most notorious apartheid laws is the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Provision), which was enacted in 2003. The law prohibits the granting of citizenship or residency status to Palestinians from the occupied territories, as well as Arabs from Iran, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, who are married to Israeli citizens. According to Adalah, the law specifically affects Palestinian citizens of Israel, preventing thousands of families from living together.

Israel’s apartheid regime is enacted against both Palestinian citizens and Palestinians living under Israeli military occupations. Since 1967, Palestinians living in the occupied territories have been subject to military laws, which control every aspect of their daily lives.

Palestinians are regular subjected to a wide range of punitive punishments and restrictions, including the destruction of homes and crops and restrictions on freedom of movement.
Israel’s apartheid regime in the occupied territories also allows the detention and arrest of large numbers of Palestinian civilians without charge or trial. Detained Palestinians, and their lawyers, have no right to know what they are accused of and no right to access the military “evidence” being used against them.

Since 1967, more than 40 percent of Palestine’s male population, including minors, have been detained by Israel. According to Addameer, the Palestinian Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, “Physical and psychological torture against Palestinian and Arab prisoners has been a distinguishing factor of Israeli occupation since 1967”. The association estimates that since the beginning of the first Palestinian intifada in 1987, at least 30,000 Palestinians have been tortured by Israel.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Pro-Israel advocates in Australia targeted three Australian journalists

Dear friends,
I am a little late in posting this up.  Recently respected Australian journalist, John Lyons recently released a memoir about his time in Jerusalem bureau for The Australian.  As many will be aware, Murdoch's Australian is avowedly pro-Zionist/pro-Israel and Lyons has often been the lone dissenting voice on Israel-Palestine among its permanent roster of journalists. 

In his memoir, Balcony Over Jerusalem, Lyons documents how both the Israeli government and Zionist pro-Israel lobby in Australia systematically targeted him and other journalists, seeking to favourably influence and/or undermine their reporting of the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Please find below the Guardian's article from July discussing Lyon's memoir and the targeting of journalist by the Israeli government and Pro-Israeli lobby groups.

In solidarity, Kim


Pro-Israel advocates in Australia targeted three journalists, new book claims

John Lyons says he was put under constant pressure when covering the Middle East for the Australian, and so were ABC reporters Sophie McNeill and Peter Cave

The ABC’s Sophie McNeill was one of the network’s two reporters who were put under the microscope by pro-Israel advocacy groups, a new book claims. Photograph: Sophie McNeill/Instagram 

Pro-Israel advocacy groups in Australia targeted the Middle East correspondent of the Australian newspaper and two ABC reporters, a new book claims.

John Lyons says he was subjected to consistent pressure from the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) while based in Jerusalem for the Australian for six years, as were the ABC’s Sophie McNeill and the veteran ABC correspondent Peter Cave.

In his Middle East memoir Balcony Over Jerusalem, Lyons says Cave told him another group prepared dossiers on Cave and other ABC reporters “and sent them to like-minded journalists and members of parliament”.

Lyons says pressure also came from inside his own paper. He says the former editor of the Weekend Australian Nick Cater refused to publish his work and the pro-Israel lobby bombarded editors with criticism of his reports.

“I phoned Cater and he confirmed that he’d asked for my work to no longer appear in Inquirer [the Australian’s Saturday opinion section],” Lyons writes.

“I let [editor-in-chief Chris] Mitchell know that, from my point of view, the exclusion from Inquirer was just the latest in a long series of disagreements with Nick Cater … he intervened and told Cater that excluding me from Inquirer was not acceptable.”

Lyons writes that an Israeli embassy official was invited by Cater to the Australian’s head office in Sydney, and told editors that the embassy was not happy with him. “To me the idea of an officer of a foreign government wandering the floor of my newsroom criticising me was outrageous.”

Lyons interviewed Mitchell and others for the book, but Cater declined.

In 2015, AIJAC sent a file on McNeill to Jewish members of the ABC board, including the then chairman James Spigelman, and this file claimed among other things that she was unsuitable because she had said “one of the saddest things I’ve seen in my whole life is spending time filming in a children’s cancer ward in Gaza”.

The then ABC managing director Mark Scott ordered a detailed response from corporate affairs, which he took to the board.

“I will not cower to the AIJAC,” Scott said, according to Lyons.

Scott was also forced to defend McNeill from attacks at Senate estimates after the dossier was sent to key parliamentarians.

“Before this reporter set foot in the Middle East, there was a campaign against her personally taking up that role,” he said in response to a question from senator Eric Abetz.
“I am saying that she is a highly recognised and acclaimed reporter … she deserved that appointment and she needs to be judged on her work.”

In a letter to the board, Scott wrote: “The article [by AIJAC] demonstrates to Sophie McNeill and the ABC that her every word will be watched closely by AIJAC and she starts on the ground with this key interest group sceptical. We are all aware she will be under even closer scrutiny now. As they seek to influence our coverage, this is a pre-emptive ‘shot across the bows’.

“The pre-emptive attack on McNeill is similar to the approach employed by lobby groups internationally. The US reporter Jodi Rudoren was targeted when she was appointed Jerusalem bureau chief for the New York Times in 2012 and accused of being biased against Israel and unsuitable for the post … The New York Times refused to bow to the pressure and Rudoren remained in the position.”

Lyons writes that AIJAC director Colin Rubenstein had unprecedented access to the Australian, speaking regularly to editors and even suggesting articles the paper should run.

After criticising Lyons’s reporting, Rubenstein emailed an alternative article to Cater.
Mitchell, who was supportive of Lyons, later told him that Rubenstein would go behind his back and call Cater if he refused to take his call, Lyons writes. “I got upset with Colin when he rang me and attacked [Australian reporter] Elizabeth Wynhausen as ‘a self-loathing Jew’.

I thought it was inappropriate for him to be making that kind of comment about one of my staff. For some time after that I stopped taking his calls.”

Lyons argues that Australian journalists should not accept the trips to Israel organised by the lobby . “During my time in Israel I would come to believe that Australia’s uncritical support of Israel is both illogical and unhealthy,” he writes.

“For more than 20 years, Australians have read and heard pro-Israel positions from journalists, editors, politicians, trade union leaders, academics and students who have returned from the all-expenses-paid Israel lobby trips. In my opinion, no editors, journalist or others should take those trips: they grotesquely distort the reality and are dangerous in the sense that they allow people with a very small amount of knowledge to pollute Australian public opinion.”

Rubenstein told the Guardian he had spoken to editors over the years, including Cater. “I find it hard to see in what way this is nefarious or improper.”

He added: “I certainly did speak to Chris Mitchell about Elizabeth Wynhausen in 2006, and specifically about a piece which read like a ‘hit job’ on both AIJAC and myself, while evoking all too familiar caricatures. I felt entitled to some right of reply - which I received in the form of a letter.

“I do not recall ever calling her a ‘self-loathing Jew’ and that does not sound like the kind of terminology I would use. As for Chris Mitchell’s claim about ceasing to take my calls, I must say I was not aware he felt that way at the time – which shows how infrequently I actually spoke to him.

“We did put together a public document explaining why we thought Sophie McNeill … was an inappropriate choice for Middle East correspondent for the taxpayer funded ABC, with its statutory obligations of impartiality.

”Everything we do - critiquing media stories; contacting editors, politicians and journalists and explaining our point of view to them; writing our our letters and op/eds; making complaints – are absolutely normal elements of deliberation and debate in a democratic society.

“I would call on those who oppose our views, including Mr Lyons, to engage with different views in a democratic, tolerant and constructive spirit, rather than demand, as he appears to be doing, that those who disagree with him be silenced or suppressed.”

The Guardian approached Cater but he declined to comment.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Nakba and Survival VS Benny Morris

Dear friends,
a review in Haaretz of Adel Manna's new book, Nakba and Survival and a response to Benny Morris's criticism of the book.

in solidarity, Kim

For the Nakba, There's No Need of an 'Expulsion Policy'

In contrast to what Benny Morris claimed, Adel Manna's 'Nakba and Survival' is an inspiring book, noteworthy for its methodical approach in presenting a credible, multifaceted history of the Palestinian tragedy of 1948

 Daniel Blatman, Haaretz, Aug 04, 2017

Benny Morris’ criticism of Adel Manna’s important book “Nakba and Survival: The Story of the Palestinians Who Remained in Haifa and the Galilee, 1948-1956” (“Israel had no ‘expulsion policy’ against the Palestinians in 1948,” July 29)  is part of the historian's efforts – which have continued for over 15 years – to deny what he once claimed in the past: that Israel carried out ethnic cleansing for all intents and purposes in Israel's 1948 War of Independence. (“Nakba,” meaning "catastrophe," is the term used by Arabs to describe the war, when more than 700,000 Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes over a period of about two years.)

In the past Morris stated this with commendable courage. In a debate with Israeli author Aharon Megged on the pages of Haaretz in 1994, he declared: “The new corpus of facts that have been revealed in documents (for example: details that had been concealed regarding acts of slaughter, expulsion and expropriation carried out by the Hebrew defense forces in 1948 and in the following years) have given rise to a different interpretation of the Zionist enterprise Zionism’s principal aspiration was to solve the problems of the Jewish people in the Diaspora, to establish a political entity that would be a refuge for the Jews and an exemplary country.

An Israeli soldier, armed with a rifle, stop some Palestinian Arabs in a street in Nazareth, Palestine, July 17, 1948, as they are travelling after the allotted curfew time

“But," Morris continued, "Zionism also had other objectives: to take control of the Land of Israel from the sea to the river to replace the Palestinians who lived there: to push them out of the country at the moment of decision the defense forces of the Zionist movement gave expression to the belligerent and expansionist urge that was always at the basis of Zionist ideology, and made sure – whether by means of making them flee and expulsion, or by preventing the return of refugees – to push outside the borders of the state-in-the-making the vast majority of Arabs who lived in the areas that became the State of Israel, and also to enlarge the state beyond the lines drawn in the 1947 UN General Assembly resolution.”

The Benny Morris of 1994 did a better job of explaining what Dr. Manna asserts in his book. But in recent years Morris has been trying to “correct a mistake” and to prove that what he concluded from his research about the expulsion of the Palestinians was actually incorrect. I don’t know what made him change his conclusions regarding the catastrophe that Israel inflicted on the Palestinian people in 1948. What is worse is the fact that Morris wickedly criticizes research that is attempting, in a balanced and critical manner, to deal with the Nakba and its outcome from an angle that doesn’t suit the Zionist narrative – a narrative that Morris also attacked harshly in the past due to its ideological biases.

Morris asserts in his review that, “Concerning the 1947-1949 war, Manna’s story is simple: The Jews uprooted the Arabs from their locales and also did so in the years after the war; a conflict between two national movements, each of them with legitimate claims, did not happen; and, in fact, there was hardly even a war: There was just an uprooting and nothing else.” But isn’t this assertion similar to what he himself said 23 years ago?

Palestinian refugees leaving a village near Haifa, June 1948

Manna, as opposed to several of his critics, is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English, which is why, for example, he can not only read and examine official documents of the Haganah (the pre-state Jewish fighting force), but can also survey the Arabic press and other Arabic sources. In other words, as opposed to Morris, whose research is based mainly on official documents from Israeli and British archives, Manna presents a complex and more credible picture of the Palestinian tragedy.

Morris’ tendentiousness is also clear, for example, in his criticism of Manna regarding the interviews he gathered from survivors of the Nakba, who are now elderly men and women. How is it possible, complains Morris, that after so many years people remember what really happened? According to Morris, “Throughout ‘Nakba and Survival,’ Manna ‘shows’ that what people remember 40 or 50 years after the fact is congruent with what is related in the documentation that has come down to us from those years (this, contrary to my own admittedly not very vast experience to the effect that usually there is no such congruence, or else the interviewees simply did not remember anything).”

In other words, according to Morris, what’s really important in order to understand “what really happened,” is what he found in the Israeli or British archives. Strange, since in a review he wrote in the Haaretz Hebrew edition (“These refugees have nowhere to return to,” November 24, 1992) on an encyclopedic collection published by the Institute for Palestine Studies about Palestinian villages that were erased from the map in 1948, he thought differently: “The authors didn’t interview refugees (and in a few years from now none will remain),” he claimed.

Benny Morris still believes that the role of the historian is no more than to tell his readers what he found in an official archive and in documents issued by some government organization or other. Had the study of the Holocaust, for example, continued to be based on a similar approach – as indeed was the case in German historiography in the 1970s – we would know almost nothing about the Jews’ lives and their efforts to survive during the years of their great tragedy, as we now know thanks to the many testimonies from the survivors themselves.

PHOTO: The cover of 'Nakba and Survival: The Story of the Palestinians Who Remained in Haifa and the Galilee, 1948-1956.' 

And that’s actually what Manna does: He brings the story of his people’s national tragedy from the point of view of the victim, of the survivor. Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue and the policy of expulsion are not at the heart of the book: The story of the expulsion and of the survival is what's found there.

On the issue of the expulsion Morris also squirms in an effort to distance himself from his former self. But here he steps on a land mine: Serious researchers of the phenomenon of mass violence don’t have to find unequivocal proof of the existence of “a policy of expulsion” in order to reach the conclusion that crimes against humanity were committed. He asserts that there was no such policy, and if there were directives issued to carry out massacres in Palestinian villages they were conveyed, he says, “by (vague) order.”

One would think that when the Ottomans decided to expel the Armenians in 1915 they published it in the official press, or when Ratko Mladic decided to slaughter over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995, he made his orders public. Orders and instructions to carry out such crimes are given orally, in closed discussions, and by implication, in ambiguous language. That doesn’t mean that those who carry them out don’t know exactly what is intended by the person who gives those evasive orders.

Morris finds the ultimate proof for the weakness of Manna’s claim regarding the expulsions in the fact that at the end of the war, 160,000 Arabs remained inside Israel. Is that expulsion? If there was a policy of expulsion, he asks, how is it possible that so many Palestinians remained? That reminds me of what Holocaust deniers wrote already in the first years after World War II. A final solution? What are you talking about? How is it possible that hundreds of thousands of Jews remained in all kinds of European countries, and millions in the Soviet Union? Perhaps, those anti-Semites claimed, several hundreds of thousands died from the harsh conditions in various places – but ... gas chambers and mass murder?

Of course, no research is free of errors and imprecise assertions. That’s also true of Manna’s research, and Morris mentions some of them. But Manna’s book is an important contribution to the study of the Palestinian tragedy, and mainly, a rare opportunity for the Jewish reader to understand the human aspect of the great catastrophe that the national independence of his people inflicted upon members of the nation that lived in this country for many years before that.

Palestinian refugees returning to their village after its surrender during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.