Friday, December 2, 2011
Canadian Dimension's "Alert" radio program interviewed me this week on the Egyptian elections and the ongoing uprising in that country. Listen here (the interview begins at about 10:26).
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Originally published by Electronic Intifada
The popular internet magazine Slate recently published an excerpt from The Unmaking of Israel, a new book by the historian Gershom Gorenberg. The title of the excerpt asked “Did Israel actually plan to expel most of its Arabs in 1948? Or not?” (“The Mystery of 1948,” 7 November 2011).
As most critical scholars of Palestinian history and the Zionist-Palestinian conflict would likely agree, this is an odd question to ask. Since Israel’s “new historians” began publishing revised histories that undermined the long-held official Zionist ideological narrative of the creation of Israel (in which the Arabs left Palestine voluntarily, or in response to urgings from the Arab states) it has become increasingly clear that Ilan Pappe was correct in suggesting a paradigm shift in historical analysis of the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe). Instead of viewing the violent, bloody events of 1948 through the lens of “war,” Pappe proposed a framework of “ethnic cleansing” — which, as he demonstrated, is well supported by the available evidence. But despite such growing clarity and consensus, Gorenberg implicitly rejects Pappe’s framework.
Since the early Zionist leadership formed a planning body (the Situation Committee) to determine how the Palestinian minority who remained within the borders of the future Jewish state would be managed, Gorenberg concludes that David Ben-Gurion and his affiliates had no firm plans to cleanse the territory on the eve of the 1948 conflict. Of course, these leaders had contemplated “transfer,” but this was an understandable manifestation of demographic unease and only one possible option among others. Though Ben-Gurion and the liberal Zionists likely had the best of intentions toward the Arabs, the right-wing spoiled the hopes of the more progressive and committed violent atrocities.
Gorenberg thus presents an image of a powerless Zionist left, which was presented with a fait accompli by the radical right and the unpredictability of the “chaos of war,” then attacked head-on by the confused natives and forced to defend itself.
By relentlessly placing the blame on a few “crazed” right-wing groups and the whims of fate, Gorenberg exculpates Zionism as such from responsibility for its brutal colonial history and leaves room for some “good Zionists,” who can doubtless count him among their number. In Gorenberg’s version of events one can detect the revenge of the “old historians,” mediated through several decades of the revisionists: the discredited fictions proffered by the Israeli state and allied ideologues are revitalized while simultaneously acknowledging the now-undeniable crimes of Zionism’s past. Though some misguided right-wing Zionists committed or caused horrendous injustices against the Palestinians, fuelling the conflict, there is a “pure” left-wing Zionism that stands apart from these acts and which was dragged against its will into a situation from which there was no easy escape. It was all an accident.