August 27, 2006

Palestine, Refugees and Honesty

In a series of threads on this Blog and on Marc Cooper's blog I've engaged an ideological opponent who writes under the name of Ahmed. Ahmed resents the support that I have given Israel in the war against Hezbollah and has accused me of a variety of things, not the least of which is xenophobia (a morbid or irrational fear of strangers) and of being less than honest:

Woodruff i was asking Gm Roper about a specific but very important claim he made which ive argued is not only totally false but also quite revealing in its dishonesty and historical ignorance
The issue being discussed was the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians at the re-establishment of the State of Israel and the Arab treatment of Jews at the same time. I maintained at the time that while some 600,000 + Palestinians left Israel some 1,000,000 plus Jews were expelled from Arab lands.

Ahmed took umbrage at my characterization of the differences and claimed that I was being dishonest and historically ignorant. Woody, my blogging partner rose to my defense with the following:

When G.M. gets back in circulation, he can take this up further with you. But, rest assured, he discusses issues honestly and intelligently. If you dispute his facts, then clear those up. If you dispute his honesty, then that "fact" of yours is wrong. [emphasis added]

Ahmed, will, I'm sure, be understanding if I disagree with his assessment. But he has a point of sorts, there is a lot of misunderstanding about what happened at the founding of Israel, what happened to both Jewish and Arab refugees and what the history says, especially since I'm being accused of being historically ignorant. Well, Ahmed, here are a few facts. You will, no doubt, dispute the source of these, but there are numerous citations to back up the quotes as you will see, some Israeli sources, some Arab sources and some United Nations sources, but all with substantial agreement that a substantial number of Arabs left the burgeoning state of Israel for a couple of reasons, but were not forced out at the point of a gun or by the evil Israeli IDF thugs in jackboots. So, lets begin the recitation shall we.


"One million Palestinians were expelled by Israel from 1947-49."


The Palestinians left their homes in 1947-49 for a variety of reasons. Thousands of wealthy Arabs left in anticipation of a war, thousands more responded to Arab leaders' calls to get out of the way of the advancing armies, a handful were expelled, but most simply fled to avoid being caught in the cross fire of a battle.

Many Arabs claim that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1947-49. The last census was taken by the British in 1945. It found approximately 1.2 million permanent Arab residents in all of Palestine. A 1949 Government of Israel census counted 160,000 Arabs living in the country after the war. In 1947, a total of 809,100 Arabs lived in the same area.1 This meant no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees. A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine arrived at an even lower figure — 472,000, and calculated that only about 360,000 Arab refugees required aid.2

Although much is heard about the plight of the Palestinian refugees, little is said about the Jews who fled from Arab states. Their situation had long been precarious. During the 1947 UN debates, Arab leaders threatened them. For example, Egypt's delegate told the General Assembly: "The lives of one million Jews in Muslim countries would be jeopardized by partition."3

[Note: In case you have trouble reading this, the numbers are: Morroco, 268,000; Algeria, 14,000; Libya, 35,000; Egypt, 89,525; Lebanon, 6,000; Syria, 4,500; Iraq, 129,290; Yemen and Adan, 50,552]

The number of Jews fleeing Arab countries for Israel in the years following Israel's independence was nearly double the number of Arabs leaving Palestine. Many Jews were allowed to take little more than the shirts on their backs. These refugees had no desire to be repatriated. Little is heard about them because they did not remain refugees for long. Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees between 1948 and 1972, 586,000 were resettled in Israel at great expense, and without any offer of compensation from the Arab governments who confiscated their possessions.3a Israel has consequently maintained that any agreement to compensate the Palestinian refugees must also include Arab compensation for Jewish refugees. To this day, the Arab states have refused to pay any compensation to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were forced to abandon their property before fleeing those countries. Through November 2003, 101 of the 681 UN resolutions on the Middle East conflict referred directly to Palestinian refugees. Not one mentioned the Jewish refugees from Arab countries.3b

The contrast between the reception of Jewish and Palestinian refugees is even starker when one considers the difference in cultural and geographic dislocation experienced by the two groups. Most Jewish refugees traveled hundreds — and some traveled thousands — of miles to a tiny country whose inhabitants spoke a different language. Most Arab refugees never left Palestine at all; they traveled a few miles to the other side of the truce line, remaining inside the vast Arab nation that they were part of linguistically, culturally and ethnically.

Well, that seems historically "accurate"and was "one" of my sources for my original claim, but let's not stop there. There are a couple of other "myths" that others claim to be historically accurate but according to my source are not. Not the least of these involves the myth of the IDF storm troopers forcing Arabs out of Palestine at the point of a gun (and yes, I'm using a tad bit of hyperbole in describing the IDF - but in keeping with various accuasations [not necessarily by Ahmed] against the supporters of Israel.) At any rate:

"The Jews created the refugee problem by expelling the Palestinians."


Had the Arabs accepted the 1947 UN resolution, not a single Palestinian would have become a refugee. An independent Arab state would now exist beside Israel. The responsibility for the refugee problem rests with the Arabs.

The beginning of the Arab exodus can be traced to the weeks immediately following the announcement of the UN partition resolution. The first to leave were roughly 30,000 wealthy Arabs who anticipated the upcoming war and fled to neighboring Arab countries to await its end. Less affluent Arabs from the mixed cities of Palestine moved to all-Arab towns to stay with relatives or friends.6 By the end of January1948, the exodus was so alarming the Palestine Arab Higher Committee asked neighboring Arab countries to refuse visas to these refugees and to seal their borders against them.7

On January 30, 1948, the Jaffa newspaper, Ash Sha'ab, reported: "The first of our fifth-column consists of those who abandon their houses and businesses and go to live elsewhere....At the first signs of trouble they take to their heels to escape sharing the burden of struggle."8

Another Jaffa paper, As Sarih (March 30, 1948) excoriated Arab villagers near Tel Aviv for "bringing down disgrace on us all by 'abandoning the villages.'"9

Meanwhile, a leader of the Arab National Committee in Haifa, Hajj Nimer el-Khatib, said Arab soldiers in Jaffa were mistreating the residents. "They robbed individuals and homes. Life was of little value, and the honor of women was defiled. This state of affairs led many [Arab] residents to leave the city under the protection of British tanks."10

John Bagot Glubb, the commander of Jordan's Arab Legion, said: "Villages were frequently abandoned even before they were threatened by the progress of war."11

Contemporary press reports of major battles in which large numbers of Arabs fled conspicuously fail to mention any forcible expulsion by the Jewish forces. The Arabs are usually described as "fleeing" or "evacuating" their homes. While Zionists are accused of "expelling and dispossessing" the Arab inhabitants of such towns as Tiberias and Haifa, the truth is much different. Both of those cities were within the boundaries of the Jewish State under the UN partition scheme and both were fought for by Jews and Arabs alike.

Jewish forces seized Tiberias on April 19, 1948, and the entire Arab population of 6,000 was evacuated under British military supervision. The Jewish Community Council issued a statement afterward: "We did not dispossess them; they themselves chose this course....Let no citizen touch their property."12

In early April, an estimated 25,000 Arabs left the Haifa area following an offensive by the irregular forces led by Fawzi al-Qawukji, and rumors that Arab air forces would soon bomb the Jewish areas around Mt. Carmel.13 On April 23, the Haganah captured Haifa. A British police report from Haifa, dated April 26, explained that "every effort is being made by the Jews to persuade the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and businesses open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe."14 In fact, David Ben-Gurion had sent Golda Meir to Haifa to try to persuade the Arabs to stay, but she was unable to convince them because of their fear of being judged traitors to the Arab cause.15 By the end of the battle, more than 50,000 Palestinians had left.

“Tens of thousands of Arab men, women and children fled toward the eastern outskirts of the city in cars, trucks, carts, and afoot in a desperate attempt to reach Arab territory until the Jews captured Rushmiya Bridge toward Samaria and Northern Palestine and cut them off. Thousands rushed every available craft, even rowboats, along the waterfront, to escape by sea toward Acre.”

— New York Times, (April 23, 1948)

In Tiberias and Haifa, the Haganah issued orders that none of the Arabs' possessions should be touched, and warned that anyone who violated the orders would be severely punished. Despite these efforts, all but about 5,000 or 6,000 Arabs evacuated Haifa, many leaving with the assistance of British military transports.

Syria's UN delegate, Faris el-Khouri, interrupted the UN debate on Palestine to describe the seizure of Haifa as a "massacre" and said this action was "further evidence that the 'Zionist program' is to annihilate Arabs within the Jewish state if partition is effected."16 [Note: It would seem this predates even the false claims of a "massacre" at Jenin or even at Qana. - they just love that massacre word don't they?]

The following day, however, the British representative at the UN, Sir Alexander Cadogan, told the delegates that the fighting in Haifa had been provoked by the continuous attacks by Arabs against Jews a few days before and that reports of massacres and deportations were erroneous.17

The same day (April 23, 1948), Jamal Husseini, the chairman of the Palestine Higher Committee, told the UN Security Council that instead of accepting the Haganah's truce offer, the Arabs "preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings, and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town."18

The U.S. Consul-General in Haifa, Aubrey Lippincott, wrote on April 22, 1948, for example, that "local mufti-dominated Arab leaders" were urging "all Arabs to leave the city, and large numbers did so."19

An army order issued July 6, 1948, made clear that Arab towns and villages were not to be demolished or burned, and that Arab inhabitants were not to be expelled from their homes.20

The Haganah did employ psychological warfare to encourage the Arabs to abandon a few villages. Yigal Allon, the commander of the Palmach (the "shock force of the Haganah"), said he had Jews talk to the Arabs in neighboring villages and tell them a large Jewish force was in Galilee with the intention of burning all the Arab villages in the Lake Hula region. The Arabs were told to leave while they still had time and, according to Allon, they did exactly that.21

In the most dramatic example, in the Ramle-Lod area, Israeli troops seeking to protect their flanks and relieve the pressure on besieged Jerusalem, forced a portion of the Arab population to go to an area a few miles away that was occupied by the Arab Legion. "The two towns had served as bases for Arab irregular units, which had frequently attacked Jewish convoys and nearby settlements, effectively barring the main road to Jerusalem to Jewish traffic."22

As was clear from the descriptions of what took place in the cities with the largest Arab populations, these cases were clearly the exceptions, accounting for only a small fraction of the Palestinian refugees.

As one can see from the footnotes which I have provided links for (and are in the original article on Myths here history does indeed support my contention so it is historically accurate.

As to the charge of xenophobia - utter nonsense. One can be totally against a peoples (in this case I'm standing with Israel against Hezbollah and yet I have no morbid or irrational fear of them. They are a group of terrorists supported and supplied by two thuggish regimes, Iran and Syria and are a blight on the peace process.

I would love to see Israel and it's Arab neighbors settle their disputes and live together in peace, but anyone who is so anti-Israel that their ability to think rationally about the situation is impaired needs to think of their own motives. Has Israel overreacted at times? Most assuredly! Has there been sufficient provocation for some of that overreaction? Again, most assuredly, but pointing that out does nothing to further the cause of peace. It is only when one side stops its penchant to destroy the state of Israel that peace will have a chance, and not until then. I, for one, and there are doubtless tens of thousands of others, wish that Israel had not occupied the West Bank and Gaza, but they didn't start that war, they only won it and the loss of the West Bank and Gaza can be laid at the feet of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and their fellow travelers. Egypt and Jordan controlled the Gaza Strip and the West Bank respectively prior to the '67 war and did absolutely nothing to assuage the situation. Since the '67 war, Israel has controled those two areas, yet, when Gaza was given back, Hamas immediately started using the area to lob missles at Israel. If Israel pounds Hamas (and eventually, Hezbollah) into the dust as a result of the ongoing trepidations of the terrorist factions, who but the most partisan supporters of the Palestinians can gainsay them? Not me, I stand with Israel.

Posted by GM Roper at August 27, 2006 09:29 AM | TrackBack

Good research...great post!

Posted by civil truth at August 27, 2006 10:24 AM

Gm id again strongly recommend that you check out the serious schloarly work of Benny Morris, Tom Segev and the other "New ISraeli historians" as they are called who have put out the most substancial work on the topic of the palestinain refugees. I agree with some of what is written. The reasons for leaving were multiple. There were large scale massacres, the word of massacres in places like deir yassin spread and people left in fear, psychological warfare, there were documented cases of villages fleeing war and expecting to return when the war ended and so on.Just as i suspected you opted not to do any independent research, instead you cut and pasted from a website which opens up to a quote from Ariel Sharon (the author of the Sabra and Shatilla massacres) and states that its purpose is to bolster the israeli states image. A blatantly bias site, perhaps its a bias you agree with but biased nonetheless. From my reading, there are gross omission of fact on the site. That is certain archieval information id sued and much is left out. The editorial comments are deseigned to minimise what the new state of israel actually did, more so there is no references at all to many statements by israeliu officials and ziniost spokes people who has been claiming for decades thgat there was a need tpo drive out the indegenous arab poppulation in order to make room for an jewish majority. But if we get into all of this im sure this will be a much longer debate involving sourcing, countersourcing and a variety of numbers thrown around. For the sake of clarity, then, let me make one point. Even according to your own blatantly biased source (a la cut and paste history)there is scant evidence to suggest that "600 000 palestinians" left "voluntarily" as you claimed. This is, like i said blantantly false and ahistorical. This is what i was disputing spefically. I want to focus on this claim and not get bogged down in a larger argument, whcih would be quite repetitive and preditable. I still think its dishonest and ive yet to see you back it up specifically. What youve tried to do has instead been lazy and lame. try again

Posted by Ahmed at August 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Ahmed, I suspect that given your political leanings no matter what I post or what I cite, you won't be satisfied. None-the-less, I appreciate your continuing to come here if only as a contrarian.

Posted by GM at August 27, 2006 12:24 PM


Even if we accepted all the accusations of Morris & Segev (and Weinstock and Shlaim and Milstein and Pappe...) without comment, they still do not approach what has been done to the Jews in the ME. Not by an order of magnitude. "Wanting" Palestinians to leave and even scaring them off is not the same as robbing and killing. The Palestinians have more complaint against Jordan, Syria, and Egypt than they do against Israel.

I understand the desire and need for a partisan to try and shout to the world the crimes of a victim people, and anger against those some are believing innocent. It must be frustrating to encounter people who will entertain no criticism against Israel and not even look. But the balance scale is not with you. There are many in America and the west who are willing and even eager to hear of Israeli crimes. There are few in Arab and Muslim lands who will even entertain the notion that Israel has been mistreated. If you feel frustration, they feel it tenfold, and with better cause.

As Issa said, "Do not strain out a gnat and swallow a camel."

Also, Morris has recently said:
"There is a deep problem in Islam. It’s a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien. A world that makes those who are not part of the camp of Islam fair game. Revenge is also important here. Revenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture. Therefore, the people we are fighting and the society that sends them have no moral inhibitions. If it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them. If it is able, it will also commit genocide."

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at August 27, 2006 03:55 PM

Outstanding and informative post, GM!
History repeats itself since 1947. The fact remains, that every Arab state, and indeed, Iran and the majority of Muslims worldwide, want the utter destruction of Israel, and have demonstrated that desire repeatedly.

Posted by Ben USN (Ret) at August 28, 2006 01:17 AM

Listen im no partisan of Arab regimes. They are for the most part decrepit, scrared of their own people. afriad of dissent ands have betrayed the palestinian people over and over again. I've written about this elsewhere and id be happy to go over my views with anyone. That said its simply a lie to suggest, as Ben, does that they all seek the destruction of the israeli state. In fact as Lebanon was being torn apart by the most recent ruthless Israeli assualt many in the pro american camp like egypt and the vile theocratic Saudi Arabia voiced their support for what Israel was doing. More so Palestinain refugees have faced horrible treatment and discrimination in Lebanon where they are barred from working in many occupations and confied to wretched refugee camps. There is simply no diplomatic support coming from any of the arab states to support a mass campaign in the west bank and gaza against the israeli occupation. the result is that palestinians have historically faced a strong and brutal Israeli occupation, intent on crushing and colonising them at the same time as theyve been betrayed every step of the way by the arab regimes. Ive said this for a very long time. As for Roper what a pathetic show. Let me try again and this time can i please ask for some honesty. You made a very specific claim that "600 000 palestinians" left in 1948 'voluntarily". This is simply a lie and it is to whitewash history, a disgusting act. not even your own blatantly biased and cut and paste history source can back you up. So put up or shut up time. Im asking you to substanciate what you wrote

ps AVI..i was talking about benny morris the historian not political pundit. If youve read his books (which i somehow doubt), specifically Birth of a Refugee Problem, youd know that he writes very much in the "just the facts, sir" mode. He has made, by far, the most extensive use of IDF, Irgun,, Arab and Hebrew sources. His writing has been quite influencial specifically in this regard and he remains a useful and imho quite objective historian. He is a zionst and lately has become in my opinion a thug, politically speaking. He wrote a number of years back that Ben Guirien should havew used the opportunitty presented by 1948 to ethnically cleanse and get ridf of all the palestinain arab from Israel (1948 borders). That he is now an advocate for ethnic cleansing and racist policies is quite distressing but it doesnt at all take away from the imporance of his work.

pps this reminds me that there was an absolutely brillaint debate on Israel on the eve of its 50 birthday on democracy now several years back. There was quite a heated disagreement between the panelists one Jewish, the other palestinain on alot of issues. I think it gets into some of what wqeve discussed and would be helpful for those here who are heavy on ideology and light on facts. Give it a liste, knowledge doesnt kill and let me know what you think

ppps Gm...balls still in your court to back it up or say youre wrong and retract

From Site Administrator:
Now, Ahmed. No subtle personal attacks through your email address, okay?

Posted by Ahmed at August 28, 2006 06:57 AM

Efraim Karsh, the British historian, has specifically demolished Benny Morris and other 'New Historians' by pointing out numerous gross errors and obvious poor scholarship in their 'new historicity'.

Just Google 'Efraim Karsh' for a host of details regarding his books and articles. A summary of his demolition derby may be found in his, "The Incredible Lightness of My Critics" [or something like that] on the web. As here in the USA, Israel too suffers from the brain-bereft Left.

Posted by Famously Unknown at August 28, 2006 05:40 PM

Ahmed, you don't want an answer, you want to continue to postulate that you are right. I gave you an answer and I gave you the source from which I postulated my original claim some time ago. That your historians disagree with my historians is not my problem, historians frequently disagree about where this or that came from and who caused it.

There is no ball in my court, you just didn't like my answer and that my friend is your problem, not mine.

Posted by GM at August 28, 2006 07:41 PM

Ahmed, I don't even know who the political pundit Morris is. Of course I meant Benny Morris. I am no expert on Israeli history, but I have a fair knowledge of 20th C history and especially its tyrannical regimes.

I slipped into some knowledge of ME politics indirectly, first by knowing much Holocaust history and second by working in Romania and adopting sons from there. The successive slaughters of Romanians by invaders, uh, "from the southeast" over the centuries gave me a different picture of the whole Eastern Mediterranean.

Posted by Assistant Village Idiot at August 29, 2006 06:24 PM

What Palestinians call the "Nakba" or in english the catatrosphe of 1948, is, in fact the central historical event of modern Palestinian history. I think both Gm and I would agree on that. The difference between us is that I cite the main scholarly work on the issue, whosem conclusions amongst serious histoirians are mostly uncontentious. That is there is a broadf area of agreement about the numbers, the various phases of flight as well as the causes. These conclusions have been reached through extensive research into archieves as well as first hand accounts of what happenned in 1948. As i said earlier the Israeli right has been far more open to these declarations as they have argued that the ethnic cleansing that took place, by the nascent israeli army as well as zionist militias sucH as the irgun (who menachim begin was a commander of and whose stated purpose was to displace by force palestians) was justified in fact alan dershowitz refers to the events as akin to "massive urban renewal" but not even he disputes that 800 000 refugess fled. Roper meanwhile cites pro israeli websites that cant even echoe his absurd denialist claim that 600 000 palestinians left "voluntarily". There are in fact entire books and voilumes written on this issue yet he cites a transparantly propogandist website. This is decindlingly unserious and i thank roper for making himslef out to be the fool. Very easy work for me indeed

Posted by Ahmed at August 30, 2006 04:59 AM

Im usually not a fan of just posting other peoples work but this article is entirely critical to the debates we're having. Roper is playing loose and fast wit hthe facts and has now proven over and over again thah he doesnt pocess the historical knowledge (cut and paste doesnt count) to back up what he says. Weve yet to hear him defend his ahistrical comment that the refugees of 1948 exile was voluntary. Historical denila and a case of being led not by facts but ideology. Im glad to debate liberals, leftist, conservatives and libetarians who can substanciate their views. For dishonesty, stubborness and ignarance though, its too much

By Gary Olson

To grasp what's happening in the Middle East requires understanding two intertwined matters that are largely absent in mainstream media coverage and pro-Israeli government commentaries.

The first is the Cataclysm (Nakba) of the Palestinians of mid-July, nearly six decades ago. As Israeli political scientist Ilan Pappe noted in a recent ZNet piece, the story in today's headlines begins in 1948 when recently arrived Jews engaged in a well-planned "ethnic cleansing" campaign, an effort documented by respected Israeli historians and unimpeachable military sources. The facts are not in dispute and have entered some Israeli textbooks. In 2006 they are again attempting to enlarge the Jewish state and in Pappe's words, "complete the unfinished business of 1948: the total de-Arabization of Palestine"

In a forced Death March, up to 50,000 Palestinians were driven from their villages into exile, a number eventually reaching 750,000 in the Palestinian diaspora or dispersion. Haifa and Jaffa were "cleansed" and according to Benny Morris, the celebrated dean of the "new historians," Israeli massacres included: Salina(70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod(250), Dawayima (hundreds) and Abu Shusha (70 likely). Relying on IDF archives, Morris documents massacres at Deir al Asad, Majdal Krum, Eilaboun and Sasa. Asked about the word "cleansing" Morris replied "I know it doesn't sound nice but that's the term used at the time. I adopted it from all the documents in which I'm immersed."

In all, 385 Palestinian Arab villages were razed to the ground by the Israeli army, including garden walls and cemeteries. Jews moved in, new towns and parks (Canada Park, which I visited, is an example) were built and map names altered. As Israeli military hero Moshe Dayan once said, "There is not a single place in this country that did not have a former Arab population." (Ha'aretz. 4/4/69). Although Israelis are well aware of these facts, I've observed American tourists departing Israel who remain ignorant of this history, still believing the Leon Uris tale about the Israelis "making the desert bloom."

This identity defining Palestinian trauma was brought home to me some years ago during a visit to Palestinian refugee camps in Tyre and Sidon in Lebanon. Upon learning that I would be journeying to Israel, elderly Palestinian camp residents showed me well-worn photos of their olive orchards and orange groves. Another displayed her old house keys. They asked if I might possibly visit their properties and send back updated pictures to show their children and grandchildren. The events of 1948 have animinated Palestian life and that of the "Arab street" to this day.

The second troubling feature is that it's impossible to understand Israel without recognizing its founding on this dispossession and exclusion of the native Arabs. According to Haifa University scholar Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, this original sin "haunts and torments Israelis; it marks everything and taints everybody." A settler colonialist mentality prevails in which equality for all simply lies outside the Israeli mindset. There is a certain logic here because "The injustice done to the Palestinians is so clear and so striking that it cannot be openly discussed..."

In a sense this is a coping mechanism to avoid an otherwise obscene reality that runs counter to minimum moral standards and would undermine many of Israel's self-professed virtues. How else can they avoid facing the fact that their "beloved homeland has been built at the expense of others" and that the "cost of domination is their own bondage to oppression."

How does one face being "the last white settlers in Asia?" As Prof. Beit-Hallahmi observes, most Israelis avoid thinking about human rights anywhere in the Third World because that means thinking about Palestinian rights and "undermining the moral justification for Zionism." Instead, many simply choose to see the world as unjust and hypocritical, a jungle in which "might makes right." Banish all guilt. Act tough, don't identify with losers and be contemptous towards what the world thinks -- with the all important exception of U.S. public opinion.

It follows that although Israel is the only nuclear power in the region and has the third most powerful military in the world, it convinces itself (and many Americans) that it's a plucky, innocent, tiny country in constant mortal jeopardy with the Palestinians and surrounded by evil Goliaths. Nothing could be further from the truth but maintaining this sacrosanct mythology is embedded in the political culture and assiduously propagated.

Is there an answer? There are courageous and highly principled dissenters in Israel who do not have a moral blind spot where their government is concerned. But the majority of Jewish-Israelis remain silent and complicit. The solution is to end the Israeli occupation and face up to the fundemental 1948 issues. Palestinian land occupied in 1967 must be relinquished, the Apartheid Wall dismantled, some 9,800 kidnapped Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli jails released, Israeli soldiers captured by Hezbollah must be freed, a fair division of Jerusalem negotiated and equal rights for all recognized at an international conference.

But unless and until peace is forced on Israel by Washington, the pipeline for its F-16s, sophisticated missiles and $109 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars over 50 years, only the bleakest future awaits all parties. An informed and aroused American public could make all the difference.

(A shorter version of this article appeared The Morning Call (Allentown,PA) on July 26, 2006).

Sources: Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi, ORIGINAL SINS (Interlink, 1993).


Simha Flapan, THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL (NY:Pantheon, 1987).


Gary Olson is chair of the Political Science Department at Moravian College in Bethlehem, PA. The recipient of Fulbright and Malone study grants to Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, Egypt and Syria, he has also traveled extensively in Israel and Lebanon. Contact:

Posted by Ahmed at August 30, 2006 06:10 AM

Ahmed, you are nothing if not amusing. Your comment:

Roper is playing loose and fast wit hthe facts and has now proven over and over again thah he doesnt pocess the historical knowledge (cut and paste doesnt count) to back up what he says. Weve yet to hear him defend his ahistrical comment that the refugees of 1948 exile was voluntary.

I posted historical evidence that not all palestinians were forced out at the point of a gun provide historical evidence and you comment that cut and paste doesn't count. You prove it doesn't count by cutting and pasting from a historian with a different interpretation. That is entirely laughable. Totally laughable. If that is the best you can do, why do you bother coming around?

The truth is that my assertion has been upheld with a variety of historical evidences and I've supplied those evidences. You claim that all I did was cut and paste but if you read what I posted, I told you that the article and the support for it was what I had based my original claim on.

Please, for your sake, get a life!

Posted by GM at August 31, 2006 07:05 AM

G.M., please read Ann Coulter's book "How to Talk to a Liberal (If You Must)." As you know from other conversations of yours and from conversations of mine with liberals, anything that you say that does not agree with their beliefs on a matter is considered factually incorrect by them. In the past, I have given solid historical data on events, yet they deny it either because they disagree with it and/or they don't like the source. You're wasting your time.

P.S. I have to laugh at another liberal, who used to frequent this area. Mark York, who has used false name after false name to get through and make crazy comments here, only to ultimately be banned again, has now taken to making his comments and responding to our posts on his site. It gets sadder and sadder.

Posted by Woody at August 31, 2006 07:23 AM

Woody this may come as a big surprise to you but Im neither a Democrat nor a liberal for that matter. As for GM Roper, I'm glad to once again quote his claim that he has yet to substanciate with any reference to the historical record. Here's what he said "when Israel was founded, 650000 palistanians left israel most of them "voluntarily". He still has yet to engage himself with any of the serious scholarship on them matter and as ive said repeatedly he is making claims which would be laughed off, by the right wing in Israel. But what do you expect from someone who has already falsified what human right watch reports over at cooper, claiming incorrectly that they dont report Hezbollah committed atroacities. Notice, too, how i refer to them, as atroacites. Why i find the killing of innocent civilans, whether they be Israeli, Lebanese or Palestinians to be disgusting and morally indefensible. That i take it seriously when all the credible human rights organisations argued, using actual evidence, the the Israeli military as well as Hezbollah were enaged in targetting of cuvilan life. At this time I was pained to see the deaths in Haifa and the far greater death as well as sheer destruction in Beirut. When all of this was happening and hundreds of civialins were being killed, including he claughter of 12 innocnet children in Qana, Roper was cheering on the violence, blathering about Green Helmets and showing an immoral and disgusting devaluation of human life. This is a sort of fundementalism here, which is dangerous, ignorant and ugly and must be rejected as fiercely all other fundementalims including those who have exploited and subverted the islamic faith for heinous purposes. Gm start making coherant arguments for once.

Posted by Ahmed at September 1, 2006 12:53 AM

Okay as for engaging Gm Roper in a substansial and factual discussion im pretty much ready to call it a day. Hmmm but i cant help but post this story, since one of the characters reminds me so much of the attitudes and mindset ive found here (read Seth, Gm and company) Hey dont one of you guys live in New york. Read on, for fun

True story from last night.

Doing the blue collar gig in the large office building when I come across a friendly guy's office and stop to chat. Like me, he loves sports, and that's what we usually talk about (of late, the Tigers' playoff chances). Like the weather, sports are a safe social topic, for if, in the Land of the Free, you talk openly about politics or war, you might anger, sadden or even frighten anyone who may be eavesdropping. But this guy and I have developed a rapport, and it appears that he, too, hates our war-world and is open to critiques and alternative explanations.

In the midst of our chat, the Middle East came up, so I stepped further into his office to answer a few of his questions. Though over 90 percent of the workers were gone, I could hear a few keyboards being hit in some nearby cubicles, and I didn't want to risk having my words misconstrued, or worse, taken at face value by a caged-in numbers cruncher.

We've talked briefly about Iraq, Israel and Lebanon before, so this wasn't new ground. Plus, the guy knows that I'm prepping for an upcoming debate in Tarrytown, NY, so he feels safe airing his own views on this issue. We discussed the ramifications of Hezbollah's stubborn resistance, the sorry state of Gaza, the ongoing misery in Iraq, when he asked me about the history of Zionism. Seems he doesn't know much about it, but is interested in it. I recommended a few books, like Simha Flapan's "The Birth of Israel" (a must-read for any beginner), and briefly reviewed some of the Zionist thinking and philosophy formed in the years leading up to World War II, as well as the early Israeli state history that followed that devastating conflict. It's always fascinating to see the expression on someone's face when they first learn about this stuff, as if some great heavy secret has been revealed that opens their once-closed world. I always emphasize that this history is easily available to anyone who desires to read it, and that the early Zionists were not shy about stating their opinions. It's all right there. All you need do is look.

No wanting to press my luck, I ended my little teach-in via some self-deprecating remarks, and exited while he laughed (the ol' comedy training comes in handy at times like this). I finished pulling trash in the main office area, then went into the men's bathroom to bleach the urinals, clean the toilets, and scrub the sinks. A few minutes later another guy who I sometimes talk to entered to take a leak, said hello as I wiped down the mirrors. A moment of silence passed before he asked:

"So, are you two guys philosophers or something?"

"What do you mean?"

"I heard you guys talking. The Middle East, right?"


"Like, what's up with that?"

"Don't you follow the news?"

"Nah. Who gives a f***. I read the sports page."

"Well . . ."

"I mean, are the Arabs crazy or what?"

"No crazier than us."

"The hell with them. Who cares what the fuck they think."

"Maybe you should care what they think."


"Well, given that we're killing thousands of civilians and helping to tear up countries --"

"Ack. They'd hate us no matter what."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because we're the top dog, that's why."


"Yeah man. We're the best. That's why they hate us. Later."

And he left.

So there it is, Sonsters. One guy is curious and hungry for new information about issues that matter. Another guy has his head in a box (assuming he wasn't putting me on, though I didn't get that vibe). Which mindset do you think best defines modern America?

Posted by Ahmed at September 1, 2006 01:06 AM

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