Tuesday, June 05, 2012

"The Bride Is Beautiful, But She Is Married To Another Man": Debunking The Anti-Zionist Myth

Diana Muir Appelbaum touches upon an Anti-Zionist myth, a fabrication, that has been repeated by the likes of Anthony Pagden, Ghada Karmi and Avi Shlaim.
Anthony Pagden, Ghada Karmi and Avi Shlaim have all recounted versions of the following story in print as if it actually happened:

“Following the first Zionist Congress in Basel in 1897 at which the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine was first mooted, the rabbis of Vienna dispatched two representatives to investigate the suitability of the country for such
an enterprise. The men reported the result of their exploration in this cable to
Vienna:
“The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man.
“To their disappointment they had found that Palestine, though highly eligible
to become the Jewish state the Zionists longed for, was not, as the writer, Israel
Zangwill, later claimed, “A land without a people for a people without a land.” It
was already inhabited, spoken for by a native Palestinian Arab population whose
homeland it already was.”
The point of this myth is to illustrate the claim that even in the early years of the Zionist movement, Jews realized the situation in then-Palestine and understood it would be unjust and immoral to claim the land of "Palestine"--and that nevertheless the Zionists proceeded with plans a Jewish state. Thus--according to this fabricated story--from the very beginning the establishment of the state of Israel was an act of severe and willful injustice.

But on the contrary, in "The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man": Historical Fabrication and an Anti-Zionist Myth, Shai Afsai demonstrates that that the story is indeed a myth: it never happened.

So, how did Pagden, Karmi and Shlaim respond when confronted with the fabrication and asked for their sources?

Applebaum tells what happened:
When Afsai questioned Anthony Pagden about his source in 2010, he responded, “I fear that I cannot now recall . . . My source was probably, I must confess, the introduction to my copy of Herzl, but it should be available in any history of the Zionist movement.”

Ghada Karmi, who has published the story multiple times, responded,  “The story’s origins has caused me problems. I got the citation from Avi Shlaim at Oxford, who gave me a reference for it, which turned out not to be correct. I then searched hard for the source and have come up with a blank. I fear it might be apocryphal, much as I had not wanted that. Sorry!” She later added that Shlaim told her “the story had appeared in a book by Muhammad Hassanein Heikal. But it was not there.”
So much for scholarship.
Then again, why do research when it is so much easier to just make stuff up.

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