Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Beyond The Narrative Is The Historical Fact Of Zionism And 1948

Daniel Pipes writes that contrary to Arab claims, the history of Zionism was all about Not Stealing Palestine, but Purchasing Israel.

Pipes points out that conquest has been the historical norm, where countries have been established through invasion and at someone else’s expense.
Germanic tribes, Central Asian hordes, Russian tsars, and Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors remade the map. Modern Greeks have only a tenuous connection to the Greeks of antiquity. Who can count the number of times Belgium was overrun? The United States came into existence after the defeat of Native Americans. Kings marauded in Africa, Aryans invaded India. In Japan, Yamato-speakers eliminated all but tiny groups such as the Ainu.
The Middle East also has faced invasions--from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Seljuks, Timurids, Mongolians, and modern Europeans. And the area now known as Israel is no exception:
In Jerusalem Besieged: From Ancient Canaan to Modern Israel, Eric H. Cline writes of Jerusalem: “No other city has been more bitterly fought over throughout its history.” He backs up that claim, counting “at least 118 separate conflicts in and for Jerusalem during the past four millennia.” He calculates Jerusalem to have been destroyed completely at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured 44 times, and attacked 52 times. The PA fantasizes that today’s Palestinians are descended from a tribe of ancient Canaan, the Jebusites; in fact, they are overwhelmingly the offspring of invaders and immigrants seeking economic opportunities.
And that is where Zionism comes in--a movement that had no connection with conquest:
Against this tableau of unceasing conquest, violence, and overthrow, Zionist efforts to build a presence in the Holy Land until 1948 stand out as astonishingly mild, mercantile rather than military. Two great empires, the Ottomans and the British, ruled Eretz Yisrael. In contrast, Zionists lacked military power. They could not possibly achieve statehood through conquest.

Instead, they purchased land. Acquiring property dunam by dunam, farm by farm, house by house, lay at the heart of the Zionist enterprise until 1948. The Jewish National Fund, founded in 1901 to buy land in Palestine “to assist in the foundation of a new community of free Jews engaged in active and peaceable industry,” was the key institution — and not the Haganah, the clandestine defense organization founded in 1920.

Zionists also focused on the rehabilitation of what was barren and considered unusable. They not only made the desert bloom, but drained swamps, cleared water channels, reclaimed wasteland, forested bare hills, cleared rocks, and removed salt from the soil. Jewish reclamation and sanitation work precipitously reduced the number of disease-related deaths.
It was not until the British left and the Arab states attempted to drive out the Jews that those "Zionsts" defended themselves and won the land with its "military"--and through Western, Soviet, UN, Israeli and Arab sources Efraim Karsh proves in his book Palestine Betrayed that the vast majority of Arabs simply fled their land and very few in fact were forced off.

In this context Shlomo Avnieri writes that beyond the so-called narratives of what happened in 1948, there is historical fact:
In recent debates about the Palestinian "Nakba," the claim has been made that there are two "narratives," an Israeli one and a Palestinian one, and we should pay attention to both of them. That, of course, is true: Alongside the Israeli-Zionist claims regarding the Jewish people's connection to its historic homeland and the Jews' miserable situation, there are Palestinian claims that regard the Jews as a religious group only and Zionism as an imperialist movement.

But above and beyond these claims is the simple fact - and it is a fact, not a "narrative" - that in 1947, the Zionist movement accepted the United Nations partition plan, whereas the Arab side rejected it and went to war against it. A decision to go to war has consequences, just as it did in 1939 or 1941.
While Pipes emphasizes the background of the Zionist movement prior to 1948, Avnieri discusses what happened in 1948 and the falsification of historical fact that followed--
like those Germans who talk about the horrors of the expulsion of 12 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after 1945, but fail to mention the Nazi attack on Poland, or the Japanese who talk about Hiroshima, but fail to mention their attack on Pearl Harbor. That is not a "narrative," it is simply not telling the truth. Effects cannot be divorced from causes.

The pain of the other should be understood and respected, and attempts to prevent Palestinians from mentioning the Nakba are foolish and immoral: Nobody prevents the descendants of the German refugees from Eastern Europe from communing with their suffering.

But just as nobody, even in German schools, would dream of teaching the German "narrative" regarding World War II, the 1948 war should also not be taught as a battle between narratives. In the final analysis, there is a historical truth. And without ignoring the suffering of the other, that is how such sensitive issues must be taught.
If only they were.

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