Appreciate this article? +972 depends on your support -- click here to help us keep going

Analysis News

"Palestinian narrative of 1948 is not immune." A response

Journalist and historian Gershom Gorenberg answers Joseph Dana and Noam Sheizaf’s criticism on his recent writings

—This post was updated with responses from Joseph Dana and Gershom Gorenberg—

Nakba

A Palestinian man and a girl in a refugee camp, 1948 (photo via Wikimedia, license CC)

By Gershom Gorenberg

I’ve recently read Joseph’s piece mentioning me and Noam’s piece responding to my book excerpt in Slate. Out of respect for +972 and its readers, and surprise at the imprecision of both these posts, I’m taking the time to respond.

First, regarding Joseph’s piece, “A Sad Commentary”: In the course of criticizing an article by Bernard Avishai, Joseph, you also refer to a recent column I wrote in the American Prospect. Brief as the reference is, it includes two errors.

Introducing your criticism of what you claim are my views, you refer to me as “living in the same formerly Palestinian Baka neighborhood of West Jerusalem.” As a point of fact: I don’t live in Baka. I don’t believe it would be relevant if I did, for the same reason that I wouldn’t make an ad hominem argument against a Palestinian living in a formerly Jewish house in Sheikh Jarrah. I don’t think the current residents are responsible for events of 63 years ago. That said, reporting that I live in Baka without checking is sloppy journalism.

And a point of substance: Contrary to what you wrote, I have never claimed that “Western liberal Zionists living in Israel” are the “true ‘realistic, moderate progressives’ who will solve the region’s problems.”

My article, “Why Are They So Angry,” describes the shrill debate about Israel within the American Jewish community. I criticize a particular kind of diaspora nationalist who takes an uncompromising and rigid position on events in a far-away homeland. I mention diaspora Palestinians who do this in the context of a more extensive critique of diaspora Jews who do the same. And I argue that fear of being associated with such an extreme position is no excuse for moderates to remain silent.

The position you ascribe to me is not one I expressed in this article or elsewhere, and attributing it to me is, again, sloppy.

Noam’s post, “Gershom Gorenberg and ‘The Mystery of 1948,“ on the Slate‘s excerpt from my book, The Unmaking of Israel, begins by asking whether Slate’s headline fits my intentions and whether I wrote it. I’d think that anyone working in journalism would know the answer to the latter question: Headlines are written by editors. They are packaging.

In the excerpt, I addressed – inter alia – an issue that arises frequently in debate about 1948: whether the “Jewish leadership planned from the start to expel the Arabs.” I answer that the evidence is lacking for existence of such a plan – and that the report of the Situation Committee, hitherto not examined by historians studying this issue, provides evidence of the opposite: Zionist planning for the new state anticipated that the Arab population would remain in place.

Noam, your response to my first point is:

…the reason “evidence [for plans of transfer] is missing,” is because Israel has never released these bits in the archives, like it did with most documents from that time. So the public papers reveal what’s necessary to be revealed and conceal the rest…

It’s true that some material from 1948 has not been released. A tremendous amount has, and the documents shattered the classic Israeli narrative that denied all Israeli responsibility for the Nakba.

But to profess to know what’s in the material that remains secret, and why it is still classified, is to draw conclusions in advance and insist that the evidence must exist for what one already “knows.” Neither in journalism nor in historical research is this acceptable.

Here my personal experience of looking at new material is relevant. I examined the Situation Committee report on a colleague’s recommendation while researching The Unmaking of Israel. He knew of the report – the Zionist leadership’s administrative plan for the state-to-be – and suggested that if it made no mention of the Arab population, the strong implication would be that Jewish leaders planned to expel Palestine’s Arabs. Had the report borne out the hypothesis, I would have reported this.

In the event, I discovered that the plan, completed in April 1948, assumes that the Arab population of Safed, Tiberias, Beit Shean and other towns, and of 248 Arab villages assigned by the UN partition decision to the Jewish state, would remain where they were living and would be the new government’s responsibility. Having found the opposite of the hypothesis I was checking, should I have refrained from reporting it?

You argue, as well, that the question of whether Israel planned the expulsion in advance is meaningless. It certainly hasn’t been treated that way in Palestinian or pro-Palestinian accounts of 1948. And regardless of present-day power relations, the Palestinian narrative of 1948 is no more immune from historical research than the Israeli narrative.

On a philosophical level, the question is legitimate. Malice aforethought adds to the moral weight of an offense. On the other hand, a common and egregious flaw of communal narratives is ascribing malicious intent to the community’s enemy, regardless of whether evidence exists for such intent. People tend to assume that if something happened, it had to be planned. And they tend to think that their enemies are much more united and capable of planning than their own side is.

What emerges from careful study of 1948 is a picture that is more complex than either national narrative. Indeed, as you say, Noam, there was a chaotic civil war. The critical Israeli decision to prevent the refugees’ return began taking shape in June, in the midst of that war. I describe the background to that decision, in pre-war Zionist thinking and in the international silence toward massive forced population transfers in Europe after World War II.

In your conclusion, you write:

…the expulsion of some Palestinians and the flight of others didn’t necessarily have to lead to the creation of the refugee problem: It was the Israeli decision right after the war to prevent them from returning and confiscate their land and their homes that did it.

Does this mean that trying to portray and understand what happened, locally and internationally, before that decision is without value?  I can’t see why – unless one wants to avoid a picture more complicated than complete, premeditated Israeli culpability. I can’t imagine that this is your goal.

So to respond to your opening question about the headline, “The Mystery of 1948.” Perhaps it is inappropriate, if it inadvertently suggests that 1948 is a mystery novel in which a detective can “solve” the crime and identify the culprit behind everything.

As a historian, I don’t feel any obligation to do that. I certainly don’t need to decide between popular narratives and crown one as being correct. I’m obligated to report honestly what I find, and I’ve sought to live up to that commitment.

Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli journalist and historian, is the author of The Unmaking of Israel and The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977.

————————

Joseph Dana:

Gershom,

Thank you for taking the time to respond to our pieces referencing your work. Concerning your first point, you are correct, you do not live in Baka and it was ‘sloppy’ that I wrote that you did. I find it curious, however, that you do not include where exactly you do live. If you are living in Talpiot, another formerly Palestinian area of West Jerusalem located next to Baka, you might understand how I confused the location given their close proximity and similar history. However, my flaw stands and we all need to be called out when making easy mistakes like the one I did.

In reference to your second point, I wrote that you (and Avishai) assume a ‘shared authoritarian understanding that as Western liberal Zionists living in Israel [feel] they are the true “realistic, moderate progressives” who will solve the region’s problems’. Of course, I stand by the statement. I believe that your comment, in fact, strengthens my position since you have not discredited this reading of your work by engaging in the material I presented. While you might not have claimed this position in such explicit language, your body of work, taken as a whole demonstrates that moderate Zionists provide the most equitable solution to conflict’s problems.

Furthermore, you don’t deny your position on diaspora Palestinians, rather you state that moderates like yourself, based on your public political positions, should not be afraid of guilt by association and that it was part of a greater critique. You note here that you were speaking about a “particular” kind of diaspora “nationalist” but I do not feel that is clear from your original piece.

I accused Avishai of sloppy reporting in his Harper’s piece and so I am happy that you have drawn attention to my mistake in writing that you live in Baka as opposed to the neighboring West Jerusalem community. However, I would have liked to see you engage in a more substantive discussion with the crux of my piece. Namely, the merits of liberal Zionist thinking in the current political landscape of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its continuation by authoritarian writers.

————————

Gershom Gorenberg:

Dear Joseph,

I live within the Green Line in Jerusalem. I don’t think more information than that is relevant to our discussion. I find your interest in my address a curious distraction. Sadly, there are reasons these days for an Israeli critic of the settlements not to announce his address on-line. In any case, your history is mistaken. Talpiot has been a Jewish neighborhood since it was established in the early 1920s. Its residents included S.Y. Agnon. Amos Oz, in his A Tale of Love and Darkness, describes his family’s pre-1948 Saturday walks to the neighborhood to visit his uncle, Prof. Joseph Klausner.

You argue here that your original assertion about my “authoritarian understanding” stands because I “have not discredited this reading of your work by engaging in the material I presented.” Frankly, this comment is bizarre. To back up your claim, you presented one quote from one article I wrote. I’ve already noted above that you took that sentence to mean something entirely different from what I intended or believe. You present no other material with which I could engage. Rather, you claim that my “body of work, taken as a whole” substantiates your reading. If you are indeed familiar with the whole of what I’ve written over the past 25 years – including three books, not to mention more articles than I remember that I wrote in the print-only era – I’m impressed with your dedication and interest, though I believe your reading is mistaken. If you are talking about my latest book, The Unmaking of Israel, it describes the impact of the occupation and of established religion on Israeli society. It doesn’t focus on Palestinian society, for the simple reason that the impact of the occupation on Palestinian society has already been covered ably and extensively by other writers. As for the “crux” of your piece about “liberal Zionist thinking… and its continuation by authoritarian writers”: The term “liberal Zionist” is used most commonly today by writers who want to attack a grab-bag of people whom the critics believe are insufficiently critical of Israel. You’ve added to this rhetoric by asserting that liberal Zionists are “authoritarian.” When I fail to “engage” with this unsubstantiated claim, you announce it proven. Who, exactly, is being authoritarian here?

One last note in response to some of the comments here: Sheikh Jarrah includes both a small area of land that belonged to Jews before 1948, on which houses were built later, and another small group of houses where Jews lived until early 1948, in what was known as Nahlat Shimon. Hence, perhaps, the confusion.

Gershom

For additional original analysis and breaking news, visit +972 Magazine's Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. Our newsletter features a comprehensive round-up of the week's events. Sign up here.

View article: AAA
Share article
Print article
  • COMMENTS

    1. Nathan

      Finally some reasonable comments for once!

      Reply to Comment
    2. Zam

      Let’s assume the Zionists had not even thought of expelling the Palestinians. The refugees and their descendants now number 4.8 million, their numbers would not have gotten any lower had they remained in the land that is now called Israel. How exactly would the Zionists have ensured a Jewish majority in the “Jewish” state with at least six million Arabs instead of 1.4?

      Reply to Comment
    3. jump

      “In reference to your second point, I wrote that you (and Avishai) assume a ’shared authoritarian understanding that as Western liberal Zionists living in Israel [feel] they are the true “realistic, moderate progressives” who will solve the region’s problems’. Of course, I stand by the statement. I believe that your comment, in fact, strengthens my position since you have not discredited this reading of your work by engaging in the material I presented. While you might not have claimed this position in such explicit language, your body of work, taken as a whole demonstrates that moderate Zionists provide the most equitable solution to conflict’s problems.”

      This may be the best example of the pot calling the kettle black I have ever read.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Berl

      Mr GORENBERG,
      .
      You write the following: “As a point of fact: I don’t live in Baka. I don’t believe it would be relevant if I did, for the same reason that I wouldn’t make an ad hominem argument against a Palestinian living in a formerly Jewish house in Sheikh Jarrah.”
      ..
      There is an factual mistake in your sentence.
      .
      There ware no Jewish houses on the Sheikh Jarrah’s land that is currently disputed in the Israeli tribunals.
      In other words, the houses that nowadays the settlers are trying to take from the Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah were built much later. Physically they didn’t exist in 1948, or earlier.
      .
      Land is one thing. Houses is another one.
      .
      So, no Palestinian is or was “living in a formerly Jewish house in Sheikh Jarrah.”
      .
      As an historian I would expect a more accurate clarification. Otherwise it is just “sloppy historiography”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. H. Cohen

      “I wouldn’t make an ad hominem argument against a Palestinian living in a formerly Jewish house in Sheikh Jarrah.”
      As a matter of fact dozens or hundreds of thousand of Jews are living in formerly Palestinian houses, while just a handful of Palestinians are living in formerly Jewish houses.
      That’ the reason why you look so flexible and relaxed about this issue.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Carl

      Berl, it goes further: there’s no such thing as a Jewish house, a Muslim house, nor even – sadly – an atheist house. Ascribing political and cultural values to land and resources remains a time honoured means for furthering nationalist sentiments though. Now somebody show me a Christian brick and prove me wrong.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Sarah Williams

      Talpiot is not “formerly Palestinian land.” The land consisting of residential Talpiot today was land purchased by Jews who build small cottages on their plots. No Palestinians lived there, no Palestinians were displaced or rendered homeless by this land sale. There are photos on line of the Talpiot cottages showing nothing but a barren landscape around them.

      The homes in East Jerusalem under dispute are homes that in fact WERE owned by Jews prior to 1948. The owners abandoned them when threatened by the Mufti’s armed gangs in the neighborhoods known as Shimon HaTzaddik and Sheik Jarrah. There are photos on line of the homes in Sheik Jarrah, which was a mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood; Shimon HaTzaddik was almost entirely Jewish. In 1956, the Jordanian government moved 28 Palestinian families into Sheikh Jarrah who were displaced from their homes in Israeli-held Jerusalem during the Israeli War of Independence. As permanent ownership transfer was illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention, the area was placed under the jurisdiction of the Jordanian Custodian of Enemy Property. It would not have been place under the jurisdiction of the Custodian if the homes had not been owned by Jews living over the Green Line in Israel. After 1967, Jewish families sought to reclaim their homes but the Supreme Court ruled that the current Palestinian tenants could stay as long as they paid rent (called a protected tenancy). Ultimately, the Palestinian families evicted were those who refused to pay rent.

      The unfairness lies in the fact that Jews are in a position to seek return of their property but the Palestinians, due to the de facto state of hostilities between the two factions, are not in a position to regain title to or compensation for their properties in Baka and other Jerusalem suburbs. This is something that hopefully can be addressed in any final agreement, along with compensation for the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries (who btw made up the bulk of Baka’s population following the war).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Gershom, I don’t understand how you can look at Plan D and say that the assumption was that the Arabs would stay. Yes, I know all about the expressions of surprise at the ‘Arab flight’ by Sharet and so on, but Sharet was notoriously kept out of more… “hard-headed” plans.
      *
      You know that the people in Lod and Ramle were packed on trucks a full three days after the end of the battle, having surrendered. Add to that that civilians under international law have every right to flee advancing armies while retaining full residence and title, and you reach the inescapable conclusion that Ben Gurion and his mates had no intention of ending the war with a state in which the Arabs would be a majority or large minority. It’s really that simple. This is what you gloss over and which makes your narrative and analysis flawed.

      Reply to Comment
    9. BERL

      CARL,
      .
      I agree with you that is not appropriate to write about “Muslim houses” or “Jewish houses”, expression first used by Gorenberg himself.
      .
      But I am sure that you agree if we say that these houses in Sheikh Jarrah were inhabited by Palestinians and by no one before them.
      I believe that this is an important clarification.
      .
      Gorenberg used an hypothetical form (“I WOULDN’T make an ad hominem argument against a Palestinian living in a formerly Jewish house in Sheikh Jarrah”), but what he implied with that sentence is not only historically wrong, but also morally unfair.

      Reply to Comment
    10. “There ware no Jewish houses on the Sheikh Jarrah’s land that is currently disputed in the Israeli tribunals.”
      *
      Um, that too is inaccurate. The current houses are built on the same spot as the originals. the land rights to the plots remain. There was title. But that is a mere technicality. What makes the Sheikh Jarrah issue so infuriating is that Israel and the settlers expect on one hand for 1948 to be a watershed moment in which thousands upon thousands irrevocably lost access to property west of the Green Line. At the same time, it wants to treat Jewish titles EAST of the Green Line as being utterly unaffected by the same “watershed moment”. That is Israel’s root hypocrisy in that matter. The fact that many of the families facing eviction in Sheikh Jarrah are in fact refugees from inside the Green Line WHO SIGNED WAIVERS OF THEIR REFUGEE STATUS in exchange for being settled in THOSE HOUSES is merely a cherry on top of the injustice cake.

      Reply to Comment
    11. BERL

      SARAH WILLIAMS,
      .
      You made so many factual historical mistakes that it is difficult to explain all of them. I will just focus on your last mistake:
      “This is something that hopefully can be addressed in any final agreement, along with compensation for the 800,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries (who btw made up the bulk of Baka’s population following the war).”

      1)
      The Palestinians are not responsible for the expulsions that happened in other parts of the world. Palestinians and Iraqis and Egyptians are not the same people. I hope that you are aware of it.
      2)
      Many of the Jews that were expelled took the houses of the Palestinians. This is the reasons why they were quite easily absorbed and the Madbarot didn’t last long.
      If you go in Ein Houd or in Musrara, just two examples among hundreds, you will find thousands of Palestinian houses still perfectly preserved.

      3)
      It does not justify any possible kind of violence, but you should also mention that among the Jews that escaped from the Arab countries many did so in order to reach the “Jewish State” and others thanks to what Naemi Giladi called “Cruel Zionism”. Giladi was part of it and wrote about it:
      http://books.google.it/books?id=Mem7AAAAIAAJ&q=naeim+giladi+cruel+zionism&dq=naeim+giladi+cruel+zionism&hl=it&ei=asToTvnIEIbYsgbc-oi5Bw&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA
      4)
      I could continue but for the time being I stop here. I hope that now you realize how superficial is to blame the Palestinians in that respect. They paid enough.

      Reply to Comment
    12. ARTH

      Talpiot was to the west of the “Green Line,” The Armistice line of 1949. S”Y Agnon lived there in his house, which surely was on the Israeli side.

      Reply to Comment
    13. ARTH

      There obviously was some sort of expulsion. The question is if it can be documented or not, and how legitimate these documents are…
      On the official level, the plan might have been in congruence with the propaganda: That Arabs would remain in the Jewish state as citizens and on their land. Unofficially, and on the military level, there may have been other sorts of ad hoc plans implemented. Obviously, those who instigated these expulsions preferred that the record remain ambiguous about it.
      But in principal, I do agree with Gorenberg. The official Arab narratives should be scrutinized and called into question as well..
      Most people who have opinions on the Israeli-Arab or Palestinian-Israeli conflict rely on facts which are informed by their predetermined opinions and ideologies.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Berl

      RECHAVIA,
      “There ware no Jewish houses on the Sheikh Jarrah’s land that is currently disputed in the Israeli tribunals.”
      *
      “Um, that too is inaccurate. The current houses are built on the same spot as the originals.”.
      .
      You are wrong. The houses were built ex novo. No houses did stand previously on the houses that in the last few years have been taken from al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi families. It is not a secondary aspect.
      In the best possible scenario the settlers that took the al-Hanoun and al-Ghawi houses can claim that some sephardic organizations did own the soil. No one lived in that houses before these families.

      PS the houses in Sheikh Jarrah were inhabited by Palestinians and by no one before them. the Palestinians families that they are trying to kick out from their houses didn’t take the homes of any Jews before them. Moreover, as ownership issues goes Israelis will lose this argument , the Palestinians owned most of Israel and are denied claim on it. I

      Reply to Comment
    15. H. Cohen

      ARTH and SARAH WILLIAMS,
      A beautiful passage for you written by that a law level propagandist known as Edward Said:
      “My distinct recollection of Talbiyah, Katamon, and Upper and Lower Baqa’a from my earliest days there until my last was that they seemed to be populated exclusively by Palestinians, most of whom my family knew and whose names still ring familiarly in my ears—Salameh, Dajani, Awad, Khidr, Badour, David, Jamal, Baramki, Shammas, Tannous, Qobein—all of whom became refugees.”

      Reply to Comment
    16. ARTH

      Talpiot is not mentioned in that passage at all, which is the only neighborhood which I have discuss in my posts here. Other than that, I have no idea why this passage is relevant to what I have written in this thread.

      Reply to Comment
    17. jump

      Talpiyot and Talbiya are two different places. Talpiyot was founded in 1922 exactly as Ms Williams says, on empty land. What was Talbiya is still referred to as such by most Jerusalemites, though it’s official name is Qommemiyyut.

      But the debate is entirely moot. Gorenberg’s original point on that is sound.

      Naim Giladi’s claims are patently false and really are not even worth mentioning in any serious debate. Next you will be saying how Jews drink the blood of

      Reply to Comment
    18. BERL

      JUMP,
      .
      I see that you play the “card” of antisemitism: quite typical.
      First I mentioned different points in order to underline why “Ms Williams” standpoint was flawed and unfair. You chose the last one because it was the most convenient.
      I don’t have a final answer about “Cruel Zionism”. But the fact that “Cruel Zionism” did exist is not “patently false”. Yehuda Tajar himslef did acknoledge that “his undercover cell was prepared to carry out such acts”.
      .
      Was Naeimi Giladi a lier because he didn’t fit your narrative or you have some proves about it? He was part of it, peraphs he knew better than you do.
      .
      Mutatis mutandis, also the Lavon Affair was considered unthinkable, but at the end we know that was true.
      .
      Ben Gurion’s biographer Shabtai Teveth quotes him as follows: “If I knew it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transporting them to the Land of Israel, I would choose the latter, for before us lies not only the numbers of these children but the historical reckoning of the people of Israel.” (as quoted in “Ben Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: from Peace to War (1985, p. 66).
      …..
      “Cruel Zionism” is a secondary aspect in the framework of our discussion. Even if it was true, it represented an “internal affair” that did not touch the Palestinians. These are the main points of our discussion:
      1)
      The Palestinians are not responsible for the expulsions that happened in other parts of the world. Palestinians and Iraqis and Egyptians are not the same people. I hope that you are aware of it.
      2)
      Many of the Jews that were expelled took the houses of the Palestinians. This is the reasons why they were quite easily absorbed and the Madbarot didn’t last long.
      If you go in Ein Houd or in Musrara, just two examples among hundreds, you will find thousands of Palestinian houses still perfectly preserved.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Berl your info is inaccurate. The titles those Sephardics had was for houses, not vacant plots. From earlier than the 1940′s, true, but valid titles nonetheless.

      Reply to Comment
    20. BERL

      RECHAVIA,
      .
      I would be glad to have one document, one picture or something else that could prove what you are claiming.
      .
      Did the houses in the compound originally belong to Jews?
      “No. The houses in question were built during the Jordanian regime on an olive grove. They were proposed as a solution for accommodating
      Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in various parts of Israel in
      1948. The ownership of the lots is disputed.”
      http://www.en.justjlm.org/what-is-our-struggle-about/sheikh-jarrah-solidarity/faq-about-sheikh-jarrah

      Reply to Comment
    21. “There obviously was some sort of expulsion. The question is if it can be documented or not, and how legitimate these documents are.”
      *
      What, Plan D? That’s fact, documented and legitimate.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Sinjim

      “I mention diaspora Palestinians who do this in the context of a more extensive critique of diaspora Jews who do the same. And I argue that fear of being associated with such an extreme position is no excuse for moderates to remain silent.”
      .
      Diaspora Jews shouldn’t remain silent even though they “risk” being associated with Diaspora Palestinians who are all extremist, huh? How kind of you.
      .
      You are so awash in your own privilege, you probably don’t even see how offensive and insulting that is. Yet this is why you or your ideological allies will continue to fail as you’ve done for the past 60+ years.
      .
      At its core, your ideology is about only what’s good for Israel and the Jews. There is no room for talk about what is good for Palestinians and how that should hold equal weight in the arguments. So you say things to the “moderates” (all of whom are Zionists, of course) like, “Being associated with Palestinians is a risk, but you have to take it for the sake of Israel.” And then you all lament the rightward trends in Israel, as if you aren’t responsible for it.
      .
      As for Zionist plans before the war to expel Palestinians, Plan Dalet is all that needs to be said. That you ignore it demonstrates your own sloppy journalism.

      Reply to Comment
    23. BERL

      RECHAVIA,
      .
      I would be glad to have one document, one picture or something else that could prove what you are claiming.
      .
      Did the houses in the compound originally belong to Jews?
      “No. The houses in question were built during the Jordanian regime on an olive grove. They were proposed as a solution for accommodating
      Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in various parts of Israel in
      1948. The ownership of the lots is disputed.”
      http://www.en.justjlm.org/what-is-our-struggle-about/sheikh-jarrah-solidarity/faq-about-sheikh-jarrah

      Reply to Comment
    24. Mr Groenberg – when you write
      I answer that the evidence is lacking for existence of such a plan – and that the report of the Situation Committee, hitherto not examined by historians studying this issue, provides evidence of the opposite: Zionist planning for the new state anticipated that the Arab population would remain in place.

      It is utterly ridiculous to assume that just because they formed a committee to consider how to deal with Arabs who remained in Israel, there was therefore no plan to expel them. Why do you make no mention of the transfer committee? The more likely reason for the existence of the Situation Committee is that it was convened to consider how best to deal with the Arabs if the Transfer Committee’s aims were not fully realized (they were relaized to about 70%). Yes, im well aware the Transfer Committe was convened unofficially. But it was central to zionist thinking since Herzl’s time, that the best solution was the removal of the indigenous peoples.
      Knowing how well organised the jewish Agency and Zionists militia were, cataloging all arab habitations and various town/village elders etc – it stands to reason that they would have established a working group (your beloved Situation Committee) to decide what to do with the arabs who remained in the nascent jewish state. Furthermore, it demonstrates how Zionists viewed the indigenous Palestinian population – that they set up a committee to discuss, essentially, what to do with them.

      Oh and lets remember, even the first Prime Minister of Israel, Ben-Gurion, admitted he was in favour of ‘compulsory transfer’ of the indigenous Arabs. There is too much evidence both written, anecdotal and witness testimony, to deny that the removal of as many Palestinians as possible, was an aim of Ben-Gurion and his cohorts.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Mike

      Sinjim,

      Gorenberg wrote: ‘My article, “Why Are They So Angry,” describes the shrill debate about Israel within the American Jewish community. I criticize a particular kind of diaspora nationalist who takes an uncompromising and rigid position on events in a far-away homeland. I mention diaspora Palestinians who do this in the context of a more extensive critique of diaspora Jews who do the same. And I argue that fear of being associated with such an extreme position is no excuse for moderates to remain silent.’

      I could be reading this passage incorrectly, and I am not attempting a blanket defense of Gorenberg’s article otherwise, but I believe that you may have reacted to a formulation that Gorenberg did not actually make. I don’t think the author is saying that moderate diaspora Jews should not hesitate to engage in the debate out of fear of being associated with a Palestinian diaspora whose extremist character can be taken for granted. If that is the case, then right on in your commentary.

      However, I think Gorenberg is suggesting that the frenzied and uncompromising nationalism of elements of the Jewish diaspora can effectively silence moderating debate for fear of being associated with THOSE extreme voices. His reference to the Palestinian diaspora does lend a measure of ambiguity to the paragraph, but seems to pick out among the Palestinian community, like he states for the Jews, a subset of uncompromising activists that stifle debate within their own communities.

      If I am interpreting this correctly, I believe that your attack on Gorenberg’s purported privileged condescension and insult mistaken.

      Best,
      Mike

      Reply to Comment
    26. Sinjim

      @Mike: Thank you for the response. This is the passage taken directly from Gorenberg’s article:
      .
      “Some feel constrained in speaking as clearly as they’d like about Israel for fear of being identified with another rigidly ideological contingent: Diaspora Palestinians with their own overdone nationalism, and a small coterie of Jews whose express their disappointment with Zionism through mirror-image anti-Zionism…”
      .
      I believe my interpretation is correct. He makes no distinctions among Palestinians of the Diaspora. We are all the same to him. This man insults the millions of people exiled from their homeland as “anti-Israel extremists” with an “overdone nationalism” as part of an argument to convince American Jews that criticizing Israel is “good for the Jews.”
      .
      No Jew, Israeli or otherwise, would accept anyone speaking about their people and their communities in such an insulting manner, least of all as part of an argument about ending this conflict. That Gorenberg has no qualms about it shows how steeped in his own privilege he is.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Mike

      Sinjim,
      I did not do my due diligence and refer to the original text of the article; for that I am embarrassed. Having read the article, I agree that the brush stroke is broad as you say. I’d like to imagine that Gorenberg’s phrasing in the original refers to a contingent within the Palestinian diaspora that expresses an “overdone nationalism,” like that with which he openly deals in the Jewish diaspora. However, that seems to me to be grasping at straws on my part, though I would be reluctant to call it wishful thinking. I guess I just assume that reasonable and intelligent people must, if arguing–or even simply discussing something–in good faith, reject reductive characterizations of diverse groups, even of the “other.” Thanks for your response.

      Best,
      Mike

      Reply to Comment
    28. Scott Tankel

      Joseph got Owned.

      Reply to Comment
    29. [...] Gershom Gorenberg The following is a response to two pieces that appeared at +972, and is cross-posted there. Links to Dana’s and Sheizaf’s pieces appear in the body of my reply. [...]

      Reply to Comment
    30. yasherkoack

      gorenberg – and rechavia – got Owned.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Steve

      Joseph Dana is a sick antisemite who should never be trusted on anything Israel-related.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Phlegmatico

      >>> The Palestinians are not responsible for the expulsions that happened in other parts of the world. Palestinians and Iraqis and Egyptians are not the same people

      I will believe that when I start seeing Palestinians lining up at an Israeli Lishkat Giyus in order to be just another Muslim Israeli soldier like the Cherkassim. Until then, I will believe them when they send delegations to be full members of the Arab League.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Click here to load previous comments

    LEAVE A COMMENT

    Name (Required)
    Mail (Required)
    Website
    Free text

© 2010 - 2014 +972 Magazine
Follow Us
Credits

+972 is an independent, blog-based web magazine. It was launched in August 2010, resulting from a merger of a number of popular English-language blogs dealing with life and politics in Israel and Palestine.

Website empowered by RSVP

Illustrations: Eran Mendel