Asking the Hard Questions about Israel

motti-lerner-admission-israel-zionism-nakba-palestinians

A scene from Motti Lerner’s “The Admission,” a critical yet nuanced look at the massacre and expulsion of the Palestinian residents of Tantura. The play’s central question is a nagging one: to achieve co-existence, should we bury the past and move on, or dig up the bones and risk fighting those conflicts all over again? (Photo: DC Theatre Scene)

In 1948, the village of Tantura fell within the borders of the newly created state of Israel. It was a small, seaside village of approximately 1,200 residents, most of them Arab farmers and fishermen. As the war between Israel and its Arab neighbors escalated, Tantura became an important transit point for smuggling supplies to a clutch of Arab villages in the area. To sever this supply line, and also because Tantura occupied a strategic location on the road between Tel Aviv and Haifa, the new Israeli government decided to “expel or subdue” the inhabitants.

What happened next was either an important military victory in a fledgling state’s effort to defend itself or a massacre of civilians in the human rights tragedy that Palestinians call the Nakba (the expulsion). In either case, Tantura no longer exists.

Ordinarily, the conflict over rival interpretations of what happened more than 60 years ago takes place in dry academic journals. But the battle of Tantura has been refought many times.

The most recent skirmish is taking place in Washington, DC.

Israeli playwright Motti Lerner grew up hearing stories of what happened in Tantura. “My neighbors and family members, they all knew about the massacre; some of them participated in it,” Lerner has said. “They were there and they saw it. This was not talked about frequently, but it was mentioned.” He was also familiar with the controversy generated by an Israeli graduate student’s thesis about Tantura, which detailed the actions of the Israeli Army’s Alexandroni Brigade. Members of the brigade had taken the student to court over the allegations in the thesis that a massacre had taken place.

Lerner turned these stories into a play, The Admission. The Washington-based Theater J, which is housed at the DC Jewish Community Center, planned to mount the first English-language production of the play in spring 2014. Theater J had presented other Lerner plays to Washington audiences and indeed had established a reputation for thoughtful and challenging productions addressing Middle East issues. It was natural for Theater J to stage Lerner’s take on a painful historical episode and its effects on the lives of Israelis and Palestinians today.

Not everyone agreed. A group called Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) mobilized to block the production. According to their website, COPMA believes that “there is no place in our Jewish community centers and institutions for anti-Israel propaganda and that the use of charitable donations to support activities harmful to the State of Israel is a breach of the trust that donors and supporters place in these institutions.” To stop The Admission, COPMA followed the money. It targeted the funders behind Theater J. Without ever seeing the play, COPMA managed to get the production downgraded to a three-week staged workshop, which is wrapping up its run at the end of this week.

If you only read COPMA’s description of the play, you might expect a piece of theater in the tradition of Soviet agitprop, with the message of Israeli wrongdoing pushed down your throat with all the subtlety of Hamas. But the play is far from one-sided. After standing outside the theater with a group in support of staging the show—and in preparation for the COPMA counter-protest that never materialized—I watched The Admission. The play presents both versions of what took place in 1948 with a measure of sympathy for both sides. But what did or did not take place in 1948 in the village of Tantura—called Tantur in the play—was of far less importance than the impact of these events on the lives of people who were born long afterwards. The play’s central question is a nagging one: to achieve co-existence, should we bury the past and move on, or dig up the bones and risk fighting those conflicts all over again? The obvious answer is truth and reconciliation, but that doesn’t seem to be an option for the time being in Israel, or for that matter in Washington, DC.

The effort to ban this play and shut down a vitally important discussion reflects a deeper anxiety in the Jewish community. For many years, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) practically monopolized the debate in the United States on Israel. But the perennial desire to resurrect the peace process, the sharp right turn in Israeli government policies under Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign policy fallout from eight years of the George W. Bush administration’s disastrous meddling in the Middle East have all threatened AIPAC’s dominance. Recently it has been dealt several political blows, particularly around U.S. engagement with Iran.

The most significant challenge to AIPAC—and by extension to groups like COPMA—comes from within the Jewish community. Liberal Zionism—with its various facets from J Street on the East Coast to Tikkun on the West Coast—has offered an increasingly vocal counterpoint. Former New Republic editor Peter Beinart has thrown down the gauntlet before the “American Jewish establishment” for its right-wing drift and even supported a modified BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) policy toward Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. A rebellion is brewing within the Hillel network of Jewish campus organizations, with several chapters becoming “open Hillels” because of their willingness to engage with controversial topics and speakers that Hillel International has put off limits.

Liberal Zionism faces its own conceptual challenges. Rabbi Brian Walt, for instance, has pointed out the reluctance of liberal Zionists to address systemic injustice inside Israel. “Like many progressive Zionists, I ignored this systemic injustice while acting to repair some of its symptoms: home demolition, uprooted trees, and more,” he wrote in Tikkun. “Along with others like me, I also ignored the devastating and hidden evidence of the Nakba: many towns, villages, and kibbutzim that I love in Israel where Israelis live (including close personal colleagues and friends) are built over the remains of Palestinian villages whose residents were banished and whose property was either nationalized or destroyed.”

It comes back to 1948. Writing in the Daily Beast, Yousef Munayyer listed the refusal to address the Nakba as one of the three contradictions of liberal Zionism. He points out that “Zionism necessitates a Jewish majority, which it achieved in 1948 through a series of events (including mass expulsion and the flight of civilians from hostilities), and perpetuated by systematically denying the human right of Palestinian refugees to return.”

This debate over Israel and Zionism is even more agonized in Israel. Two recent books by Israelis—liberal Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit and radical historian Ilan Pappe—illustrate the debate, at least on the liberal left. This week at Foreign Policy In Focus, Adam Cohen looks at how these books treat the history of Jewish-Palestinian relations.

Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land concludes that the Nakba was a necessary evil, even if it “is an integral and essential part” of the Zionist legacy. Ilan Pappe, perhaps the most prominent historian in Israel to argue that what took place in Tantura was a massacre, describes in The Idea of Israel how various movements and individuals have challenged the dominant state narrative in Israel, which has created space for works like The Admission to be staged. Pappe also mourns the more recent narrowing of space for this kind of discussion in Israel. In 2011, for instance, the Israeli government passed the Nakba Law, which allows the state to fine communities or state-sponsored organizations for commemorating the 1948 tragedy.

It is often said that the winners write the histories. But that has changed over the last few decades. Even the winners in 1948—or their offspring—have begun to tell the stories of those who did not prevail and were thrown off their land. And, of course, the “losers” have more opportunities to tell their own stories. The Israeli government and organizations like COPMA might try to keep the Nakba buried in history or offer only a sanitized, Thanksgiving-like version of this original sin of ethnic cleansing. But the historical works of Ilan Pappe, the plays of Motti Lerner, and the questions raised by many American Jews who refuse to toe the AIPAC line keep unearthing the bones.

The always-faltering Mideast peace process also reminds us that these are not just historical issues. The question that Israel felt that it had settled in 1948 remains a matter to be negotiated, namely its borders as a state and the disposition of the Palestinian inhabitants of the area. Frustrated at the lack of progress in the latest round of negotiations, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has followed through on his threat to gain the perquisites of statehood by joining 15 international agencies. As an enticement for the Netanyahu government to uphold its side of the bargain and release 104 long-term prisoners, the United States has considered an early release of Jonathan Pollard, in prison for 29 years for selling state secrets to Israel. This kind of horse-trading obscures the much deeper differences in how the two sides look at a conjoined history that stretches back to 1948, and from there to the dust and stones of the archaeological past.

Amid all the disagreements, however, one thing is certain. Progress can only be made through talking. If a work of art encourages that kind of debate, it is part of the solution, not part of the problem. The Admission offers no easy answers. But no one should try to stop it from asking the hard questions.

John Feffer is the co-director of Foreign Policy In Focus and a playwright.

  • TSIndiana
    • Alexi

      JEWS have lived in the holy land for 3,000 years. History doesn’t begin in 33. And to claim that “Jews declared war on Germany” as the causus beli of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is beyond merely short sighted. It’s much closer to justification of Nazi ideology. Do your jackboots need a polish?

    • Ian

      Take your paranoid conspiracy drivel back to David Duke and Alcibiades Bilzerian

      TSIndiana‘s comment on a conspiracy nutters website.

      Yes Rehmat and they are well exposed as perpetrators of war crimes, rather than ONLY victims.
      Many Jews were “victims” of their own Zionist leaders, including the
      banks that they control very disproportionately, just like Wiemar
      Republic. It’s history repeating…where the FED is making fiat DEBT
      money by the boatload (except easier than printing) all over the globe.
      Look what happened to Germany when the Germans found an alternative
      and became a powerhouse of production in the 30′s. Zionist Jews and
      Rottenchildren bankers (in publications worldwide) declared war on
      Germany, engineered a worldwide boycott and manufactured
      “provocations”….
      THAT MO HAS NOT CHANGED. It’s criminal acts of war really….and history is repeating today.
      OF COURSE THEY WANT IT CENSORED FROM WORLD MEDIA. They will be found
      to be the INSTIGATORS… the results of WW3 may just surprise them.
      I don’t deny a holocaust at all and I probably have more semite blood than most Israel Jews.
      I follow Christ and have no faith in the Rottenchild debt dollar as the only money of the USA.
      I want a US Treasury Dollar as an alternative to Zion Fed DEBT Dollar currency in the USA.

      • Max Mendelbaum

        You follow Christ but are Nazi propagandist apologist rabid anti Semite News for you Christ was born , raised, and died a Jew.

        Hitler and his Nazi Party expressed anti semtic sentiment for years and outlined their war against Jews before they criminally took power in Germany. Secondly a boycott is not WAR nor excuse for genocide, it’s a boycott just like many anti Zionist organizations are waging against Israel. Germany’s prolonged financial problems related to decisions made after WW1. Third. The Jewish boycott wasn’t well organized, wasn’t represented in Israel, or many other places besides USA and had NO impact on Germany’s economy as it was repealed by American Jewish organization few month’s later. Hitler was a moron and a coward and had no idea how to run an economy. They only started to recover by investing into infrastructure Autobahn and stealing Jewish as well as other persecuted groups assets.

        Your systemic paranoia seems to stem from reading to much online neo Nazi propaganda. Put down the Elders of Protocols of Zion, it was a Czarist fable. I gather you don’t get all the facts at your National White Supremacist Party conventions.

        • Ian

          Max baby all the stuff in the

          “quote”

          is from a comment by “TSIndiana” that I linked to.
          I agree with your comments but they should be directed towards “TSIndiana”

          You post at “Elder of Ziyon”, I’m Ian, I do the daily links :)

          • Max Mendelbaum

            Yes, I’m aware of your comments at EOZ and my response was never meant for you but for TSIndiana. What threw me off, was seeing TSIndiana name in blue highlights, thinking he had responded again to your above post. Mea Culpa.

          • Ian

            Don’t worry about it, I knew what happened, I just wanted to correct the record.

            See above Feffer misrepresenting Morris, I hit him with the Irish Times letter.
            Benny Morris on fact, fiction, & propaganda about 1948

  • Michael_Greenwald

    Critical analysis has always been an important part of Jewish culture. There is an old saying: “Two Jews, three opinions.” To think Jews have actually turned against Israel because they question some of its policies is to fundamentally misunderstand Jewish culture.

    • John Feffer

      I never wrote that Jews have turned against Israel. I wrote that some Jews have turned against the policies of the current Israeli government and some have asked hard questions about what happened around the founding of the state. As my reference to Thanksgiving should suggest, this is by no means a debate confined to Jews and Israel.

      • Michael_Greenwald

        Some Jews have turned against the policies of everything. Sometimes they hold contradictory opinions at the same time. When I tell Jews, “Two Jews, three opinions” they always say, “No, FIVE opinions.” That is their nature and is also how they interact to reach a consensus.

        It is rare that any country created by war (as most are) treats the enemy as FPIF might wish. You may recall America is America as the result of seizing Texas, NM, AZ and CA from Mexico, killing off the Indians, annexing (there is that ugly word) Hawaii, attacking Spain in Cuba to gain control over the Caribbean. Maybe the pot should not call the kettle black. So why do people keep focusing on Israel?

        Also, when it comes to injustice people always seem to omit the little detail about 700,000 Jews being expelled from the Middle Eastern Muslim states in retaliation right after the war. What might have happened to the Jews if the Arabs had won? They promised to kill them all (as they continue to promise) and take their property.

        • John Feffer

          Most of our articles at FPIF are what you might call the pot calling the pot black. We tend to focus our critique on U.S. foreign policy. We also spend a lot of time calling the friends of the pot black — focusing on the conduct of U.S. allies because presumably Washington can have some influence in altering their conduct. This includes Israel. Finally, we also do some articles on the kettles, like a recent one I did on Russian fascism. The point of all these exercises is not to change history — because that of course can’t be done — but to help prevent the same tragedies from repeating themselves — and that encompasses all Nakbas. We are two people, but perhaps we can agree on that one opinion?

  • Alexi

    GIANT misrepresentation of FACTS in this piece. Let’s recall that the ARABS did not begin a war to right a wrong. They began a war. The war THEY BEGAN was one of ANNIHILATION. The “Nakba” is a day of sorrow commemorated for LOSING the WAR OF ANNIHILATION.

    The Nakba Law in Israel is aimed at the permissibility of using State Funds, directly, or siphoned from resources, to commemorating the failed abortion of the Birth of the State of Israel as a tragedy.

    One day, you might consider pressuring the Palestinians into considering PEACE. Give it a shot.

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Happy ETERNAL NAKBA to all Islamfascists and their Socialist allies!

    • SCREW SOCIALISM

      Happy ETERNAL NAKBA to all Islamfascists and their Socialist allies!

  • Alexi

    “Progress can only be made through talking.”

    Yet it was not enough for Israel to merely “talk” about releasing prisoners. They had to follow through.

    Progress is made through ACTION. The “actions” on the part of the Palestinian leadership have been negative.

    I remind you of ONE simple thing. ONE simple thing that would be FREE… 1. The PLO Charter has yet to be changed so that it does not call for the complete eradication of Israel.

    And I remind you of the Original PLO Charter as writ in 1964:
    Article 24:”this Organization [the PLO] does not exercise ANY REGIONAL SOVEREIGNTY
    over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, in the Gaza Strip
    or the Himmah area.”

    Only when there are Jews there do the goalposts get moved.

  • Ian

    A comprehensive demolition of “The Admission” here:
    A False ‘Admission’ Begets Washington Post False Coverage
    http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=38&x_article=2680

  • Max Mendelbaum

    Oh yes, the ‘ Original Sin ” reserved to only Israel, just like it was utilized throughout the medieval ages to blame Jews for killing Christ. Yes, Israel is today’s Jew for today’s antisemites and anti Zionists.

    Even though people like Benny Morris is known for being top expert in Israel for what happened in 1948, the author here proclaims a leftist polemic author living in Britain is the supreme authority. Pappe has even admitted he doesn’t care about facts but about furthering the Palestinian narrative. That’s real credible research now isn’t it? How come the leftist Rabbi doesn’t recall Tel Hai and Nebi Musa massacres which Arabs initiatied an organzied terror campaign against Jews in Mandate Palestine in 1920? Mr. Yousef Munayyer should do some history reading because the Jewish people had a majority in 1947 in land which the U.N. proposed to partition to be the Jewish State, so there was no need for expulsion to create a Jewish state. That’s simply Arab propaganda as is so called ‘right of return’ for Palestinians who were not even referred to exclusively as Palestinians until 1964 when they decided to create the terrorist PLO group.

    America gives billions to Arab States in financial aid, and the Palestinians are biggest recipients of humanitarian aid per capita and are only people who were given there own refugee agency which they have developed a dependency on. Unfortunately their leaders embezzle, and line up their own pockets while keeping their citizens as poor as possible.

    Now in regards to distorted ethnic cleansing canard. After the Arabs organized terror riots in late 30′s against the British and Jewish Palestinians the Brit’s decided to take harsh steps to quell the murderous rampage that they initiated. The result was that many Arab leaders including Hajj Amin el Husseini the head religious and political leader of the Arab Palestinians who collaborated with the Nazi’s few years after had left the British Mandate region. This created a large vacuum of leadership for the Arabs in region and many of elite and middle class had followed suit. Right after the announcement of the U.N. Partition Plan in ’47 which the Arabs rejected in favor of a war of annihiliation against Jews in Palestine Mandate, they began attacking and killing Jews. According to Morris most Pal’ns fled the region, so their brethren Arabs who they joined could have clear access to attacking Jews. There is evidence that some fled at the behest of Arab League leaders. There are many other reasons as well why they fled but you won’t find leftist Jew’s or Pal’n supporters refer to it.

    It’s amazing how the anti Zionist brigade embrace anecdotal stories which demonize Israel at face value such as the Tantura alleged massacre, when there has been so many false allegations of great massacre’s like Jennin, Deir Yassin, 1983 Hysteria Poisoning female children story, Gaza Beach story, Mohammad al Dura story, etc. etc. even Genocide allegations against Israel. I guess exposing these facts makes me a far right neocon, like the left like to proclaim.

    • Alexi

      As you said at the outset: “Israel is today’s Jew for today’s antisemites and anti Zionists” .

      Great Post.

    • John Feffer

      I’ve written elsewhere about the “original sin” of ethnic cleansing that has accompanied the founding of many states, including the United States (thus the reference in the sentence to Thanksgiving). Israel is in the majority, unfortunately, on this particular feature of nation-building.

      The very first link in the piece is to Benny Morris’ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. Here’s a quote from an interview with Benny Morris that you might find interesting. He was asked about cases of Israeli massacres in 1948: “The worst cases were Saliha (70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70). There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there. At Jaffa there was a massacre about which nothing had been known until now. The same at Arab al Muwassi, in the north. About half of the acts of massacre were part of Operation Hiram [in the north, in October 1948]: at Safsaf, Saliha, Jish, Eilaboun, Arab al Muwasi, Deir al Asad, Majdal Krum, Sasa. In Operation Hiram there was a unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion.” (http://www.maroc.nl/forums/nieuws-de-dag/83140-bennis-morris-survival-fittest.html)

      Does this mean that Benny Morris is an anti-Semite? Or just an honest historian?

      • Max Mendelbaum

        Morris was one of the New Historians who all took part in an attempt to revise history by trying to demonstrate that Zionist were solely responsible for ethnic cleansing to create the nascent state Israel. “In reality, the archives show that, far from despairing of mass
        immigration, Zionist leaders in the 1930s worried about the country’s short-term absorptive capacity should millions of Jews enter Palestine. While in an implicit acknowledgment of their inaccuracy, Morris removed some of The Birth’s most inaccurate or distorted quotes about transfer,[14]
        he, nevertheless, reverts to the problematic technique of relying on a small number of Zionist statements either taken out of context or simply misrepresented” Morris failed to consult the millions of declassified documents in their
        archives, even as other historians used them in painstaking research.[3]

        http://www.meforum.org/711/benny-morriss-reign-of-error-revisited

        Morris’ interview with Shavit:

        B. Morris ” There is no
        justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an
        omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands.”

        Ari Shavit: We are talking about the killing of thousands of people, the destruction of an entire society.

        B. Morris: A society that
        aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it’s better to destroy. There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide—the annihilation of your people—I prefer ethnic cleansing. From the moment the Yishuv
        [pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine] was attacked by the Palestinians and afterward by the Arab states, there was no choice but to expel the Palestinian population. To uproot it in the course of war.

        A. Shavit: And you take that in stride? War crimes? Massacres? The burning fields and the devastated villages of the Nakba?

        B. Morris: You have to put things in proportion. These are small war crimes. All told, if we take all the massacres and all the executions of 1948, we come to about 800 who were killed. In comparison to the massacres that were perpetrated in Bosnia, that’s peanuts. In comparison to the massacres the Russians perpetrated against the Germans at Stalingrad, that’s chicken feed. When you take into account that there was a bloody civil war here and that we lost an entire 1 percent of the population, you find that we behaved very well.

        Shavit: I’m not sure I understand. Are you saying that Ben-Gurion erred in expelling too few Arabs?

        Morris: If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if
        the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country – the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion – rather than a partial one – he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations.

        But I am not a statesman. I do not put myself in his place. But as an historian, I assert that a mistake was made here. Yes. The non-completion of the transfer was a mistake.

        Shavit: Besides being tough, you are also very gloomy. You weren’t always like that, were you?

        Morris: My turning point began after 2000. I wasn’t a great optimist even before that. True, I always voted Labor or Meretz or Sheli [a dovish party of the late 1970s], and in 1988 I refused to serve in the territories and was jailed for it, but I always doubted the intentions of the Palestinians. The events of Camp David and
        what followed in their wake turned the doubt into certainty. When the Palestinians rejected the proposal of [prime minister Ehud] Barak in July 2000 and the Clinton proposal in December 2000, I understood that they are unwilling to accept the two-state solution. They want it all. Lod and Acre and Jaffa.

        Benny Morris has complained on number of occasions how his research and quotes has been deliberately misquoted and misrepresented by anti Zionists and as well anti Semites. Norman Finkelstein accused him of wearing different hats at different moments. Electronic Intifada blogger accuses him of sliding into moral depravity. When it comes to Israel Arab conflict as is the case with all other past conflicts the first casualty of war is the truth.

        Even the best intentions of an ‘Honest” historians historiographical work can be misleading due to lack of context and contain flaws due to a wideness of personal interpretation, inaccurate information, poor , weak, unorganized and missing documentation. Is Efraim Karsh a ‘dishonest” historian because his views conflict with leftists and Morris? Or must he be an “Islamophobe”?

        You seem to have adopted a very Christian dualistic black and white religious view of this complicated conflict in that there are simply ‘Saints” and ” Sinners”. If life was only that simple. What seems to evade so many such as yourself is that there would of been NO Palestinian refugee’s, nor Jewish refugee’s from MENA countries if only the Arab leaders of the Arab Higher Committee the Pal’n representatives in 1947 would of accepted the U.N. Partition Plan instead of choosing a war of annihilation. Yet you give the Arabs a pass, and assign ‘Original Sin’ solely to Zionists in regards to this conflict. The core issue of this conflict has always been the refusal by the Arabs and by extension Muslim Nations to accept a non Muslim State in what they view as their region or more accurately waqf. How come you don’t attribute ‘Original Sin’ to the Romans who ethnically cleansed the Jews from Judea and Samaria over 2000 years ago the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people? Or to the Muslim Conquests which conquered Byzantine Palestine? Or how about attributing ‘Original Sin” to Christiandom society and governance that blamed, persecuted, massacred, expelled Jews in their countries for nearly two millenia accusing Jew’s of all evil from the Black plaque to killing Christian babies for their blood in making Matzah (blood libel)?

      • Ian

        You’re misquoting Morris
        “There were one or two cases of rape at Tantura, south of Haifa.”
        “There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there.”
        Rape is a war crime. If you read the whole interview that’s what he was referring to.

        As for “ethnic cleansing”, Morris also says it didn’t happen.
        Benny Morris on fact, fiction, & propaganda about 1948
        Irish Times (Letters, p. 17) February 21, 2008

        Madam, – Israel-haters are fond of citing – and more often, mis-citing – my work in support of their arguments. Let me offer some corrections.

        Most of Palestine’s 700,000 “refugees” fled their homes because of the flail of war (and in the expectation that they would shortly return to their homes on the backs of victorious Arab invaders). But it is also true that there were several dozen sites, including Lydda and Ramla, from which Arab communities were expelled by Jewish troops. The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became “refugees” – and I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their country (which is the usual definition of a refugee) – was not a “racist crime” (David Landy, January 24th) but the result of a national conflict and a war, with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by the Arabs themselves.
        There was no Zionist “plan” or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of “ethnic cleansing”. Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948 (it is open and available for all to read in the IDF Archive and in various publications), was the master plan of the Haganah – the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) – to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent
        Jewish state. That’s what it explicitly states and that’s what it was. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Iraq duly occurred, on May 15th.

        The demonisation of Israel is largely based on lies – much as the
        demonisation of the Jews during the past 2,000 years has been based on lies. And there is a connection between the two.

        That’s twice you misrepresented Morris

        Your own “honest historian” says you’re a liar.

        • Max Mendelbaum

          In fairness to Mr. Feffer he was only quoting verbatim what Morris said in the Haaretz interview with Shavit in regards to massacres committed by Israel. However I don’t understand how that supports his premise of ethnic cleansing.

          • Ian

            His source is ambiguous at best
            The best Morris source is the subtly named The Liar as Hero
            Note the URL is “ilan-pappe-sloppy-dishonest-historian”

            “Regarding Tantura, there is written evidence that there were small-scale atrocities during and perhaps after the conquest of the village,
            including the shooting of a handful of captured Arab snipers. And one
            IDF document, from June 1948, obliquely speaks about an act of
            “sabotage” in the village, without further explication. But no document
            even obliquely mentions a “massacre.” There is not a single piece of
            written evidence from 1948 asserting a large-scale massacre (and 250
            dead would have constituted the largest massacre to have occurred in the
            1948 war). There are Israeli intelligence reports about Arab radio
            transmissions, from June 1948, alleging that women refugees from Tantura who had reached the West Bank had reported cases of rape, robbery, and arson. But none mentioned a massacre. Moreover, oral testimony, elicited forty to fifty years after the event, about a massacre—or a denial of a massacre—during a conflict that is still ongoing and in which propaganda continues to play a large role, is not necessarily credible or dispositive, and cannot form the basis of a reliable reconstruction of events. In my view, then, a large question mark hangs over what happened in Tantura.”

          • Max Mendelbaum

            Thanks for link. Interesting article. Morris even states that back in 1948 during the War there were many made up rumors of massacres circulated by the Arabs. This was reason many fled. The issue with some of these massacres’ as was case in Gaza Castlead, is that it’s difficult to distinguish between non combatants and combatants. Especially where Arabs dressed up in women’s garb like was case in Deir Yassin. That in of itself is a war crime as is using civilians as human shields.

          • Ian

            Of course the problem was their propaganda worked too well and the Arabs fled.
            Deir Yassin lies

          • John Feffer

            I’m delighted that we’re having this dialogue, since that of course was the purpose of both the column and the play. The purpose was not to prove that a particular number of people died at Tantura in 1948.

            As for the issue of ethnic cleansing, I was citing Morris not on this but on the issue of massacres and war crimes. Did Israel engage in ethnic cleansing? I would say yes, with the obvious evidence being 600,000 refugees. Was Israel unique in this strategy. Of course not. Does the near universality of this “original sin” of nation-building excuse Israel or any other country? I would say no. And that of course includes the United States.

            In a strange twist, the left and the right seem to agree on this interpretation of ethnic cleansing. And here I quote Gideon Levy in Haaretz: “While we are still desperately concealing, denying and repressing our major ethnic cleansing of 1948 – over 600,000 refugees, some who fled for fear of the Israel Defense Forces and its predecessors, some who were expelled by force – it turns out that 1948 never ended, that its spirit is still with us. Also with us is the goal of trying to cleanse this land of its Arab inhabitants as much as possible, and even a bit more. After all, that’s the most covert and desired solution: the Land of Israel for the Jews, for them alone. A few people dared to say it outright – Rabbi Meir Kahane, Minister Rehavam Ze’evi and their disciples, who deserve a certain amount of praise for their integrity. Many aspire to do the same thing without admitting it.”

          • Max Mendelbaum

            Did Benny Morris not claim most refugee’s fled (See links from other postings by me and Ian)? Did he not state that the small partial ethnic cleansing that took place was in area’s which were vital for military purposes and where Yishuv had the unfortunate choice of either doing nothing and be slaughtered like sheep or defend themselves so a final solution could be averted? Did Morris not claim 2/3 rds of ‘refugee’s were not real refugees in true sense but displaced persons within former Palestine some who ended up living a few miles away from their place of residents? Did he not state that the a’yan, women and children left on their own accord?Do you actually believe Haganah had manpower and luxury of ‘free time” to devote to ethnic cleansing of over 600,000 people while they were being attacked collectively by a collective of 5 invading Arab armies from all sides?

            Your polemic comparison between USA birth and Israel’s couldn’t be more disingenuous. European’s had NO historical connection to America’s when they discovered the America’s. The Europeans were not indigenous to Americas, never had a sovereign kingdom there nor given ANY International approval by an International body to settle there. The European colonizers were not a persecuted group of people without a ‘Mother” country or ever ethnically cleansed from the America’s prior to their arrival. The European American colonizers were never in danger of a final solution outside or within the America’s. The European colonizers were not looking to settle in a small tiny area the size of New Jersey. They never had a majority in any major center, never purchased land from chief’s , never had an written legal agreement to sharing the land with a head chief, nor were they by extension ever entertaining the thought of divvying up the land with the Aboriginals.

            It’s true that some of the particular’s of the ideology’s of the extreme right and far left converge or mirror each other on certain issue’s i.e Like both the Neturei Karta and Hamas/Fatah desiring end to Jewish State of Israel or like Pat Buchanan and Max Blumenthal. But they still are part of the fringe group constituting about less then 10% of the populas.

            Do you notice all the sources you quote or link to are from well known anti Israel leftists? Confirmation bias?

            For me personally I’m uncomfortable with the religious and historical negative connotation of the term of ‘Original SIn” Not because of what Levy states, but because of long history of religious persecution in the name of religion such as the Deicide libel against Jewish people. Original Sin implies collective guilt. It’s unfortunate that Morris naively and unintentionally popularized that term.

          • John Feffer

            It seems that I have to repeat myself. I was citing Morris on massacres, not on ethnic cleansing. I was citing Levy on ethnic cleansing. Is Levy an anti-Israel leftist? He’s certainly a leftist. But you make a mistake in equating criticism with being anti-Israel.

            All analogies are imperfect. I won’t go into the flaws in your analysis of the early settlement of the United States (there were agreements, there were purchases, there was a narrative of persecution in the “mother country, etc). More critically, what links the founding of the United States and the founding of Israel is the notion of the “redemption of the land by settling it.” It wasn’t so much that the Puritans and the Israelis argued that there were no people in the territories they were settling — although some did in both cases — but that these people were not using the land. Did Americans or Israelis start out with a vision of ethnic cleansing? Some probably did. But I suspect that the logic of expulsion developed out of the escalating conflicts.

            By the way, I don’t believe in “original sin” in a theological sense. I simply find it a useful metaphor to describe the founding of nation-states. Israel’s tragedy is that its founding coincided with the emergence of a human rights discourse. The ethnic cleansing that accompanied the founding of Great Britain or Germany or Russia took place in a more remote past.

          • Max Mendelbaum

            There was no need to repeat yourself. But maybe I need to repeat that your ‘honest’ historian who looked into matters in regards to Tantura did not find any supporting evidence of a massacre there. Find me a war where there was no human rights violations and I’ll find you a field of unicorns, a sea filled with mermaids, and sky filled with pie. Levy’s citing is purely a personal declaration without any supporting evidence. As far as the emergence of ‘human right’s discourse when it comes to Israel there is clearly a double standard in play. Israel is expected to live up to impossible standards, while the U.N. majority made up of dictatorships, autocratic leaders give themselves a free pass shielding themselves from slightest denunciations involving most gravest of human rights violations. Your ‘honest’ historian also claims there are times where ethnic cleansing is justified like during a time of defending your existence from warring groups and Nations.

            When I say anti Israel leftist, i should clarify it is in context of narratives. I’m not familiar enough with Levy to know what his exact position’s are. I am aware however there are those that can be Pro Israel yet anti Zionists.

            I’m neither American nor Israel btw. I figured there were probably some historical flaws pertaining to America’s. But it’s clear that the birth of America’s and Israel isn’t simply an imperfect analogy as in most cases (that’s a great smokescreen tactic) but what I would consider a false analogy based on very complete set of different core circumstances and nuances with few distorted similarities. The diaspora Jew’s persecution for nearly 2 millennia which culminated with the Shoah, was not a narrative! It was historical fact, not based on imaginary perception or false pretext.

            Whitehall believed they could benefit from European Diaspora Jews who could improve the land in Palestine which was a neglected backdrop of the Ottoman Empire. The notion of population transfer occurred during British Mandate period and had taken place between Greece/Turkey as well as India/Pakistan. In a sense this is what eventually happened between Arabs/Muslims and Israelis. And the persecution of M.E. Jews by Muslim Nations was planned before the birth of Israel. There was also expulsion of All Jews from Jordan/Egypt occupied territories (West Bank/ Gaza) during the War of Independence. All Synagogues were torn down as well as many Jewish cemetery’s were vandalized or hotels built over them. Hebron’s Jewish residents were massacred and ethnically cleansed twice in 1929 and again in 1947.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    Any Euro, African or Asian who is against OCCUPATION and lives in North America, on Native American land, should consider their words very carefully.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    Any Euro, African or Asian who is against OCCUPATION and lives in North America, on Native American land, should consider their words very carefully.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    What are the Palestinians doing to end the conflict?

    Have they ended the racist dehumanizing depictions of Jews in their and Arab media?
    Do they oppose Hamass over its racism?
    Do they oppose terrorism or support it?
    Do they denounce past Palestinian terrorism or celebrate it?

  • Michael_Greenwald

    The war of independence was a bit before i was an adult to I had to research it. There is a post in the Wikipedia about the mass-murders that occurred in Israel during the war of independence. When one counts up the number killed it is amazing to see that it is about equal, about 150 killed on each side.

    The primary difference is what happened after. The Arabs all ran away, urged on by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a great friend of Hitler who raised a battalion of Arabs to fight for the Nazis. He told the Arabs to run away so they would not get in the way of slaughtering the Jews.

    On the other hand the Jews did not run, probably because they had already fled which is why they were in Israel in the first place–and also no new place to flee to. So, they stayed and they won.

    Rather than the Arabs admitting they had the tar beaten out of them, threw down their weapons on the battlefield and fled, they have made Nakba out of it as more of their self pity. Of course the Jews all know this. So, I think for the purpose of this article Mr. Feffer has made a silk purse out of a sows ear.

    The Jews criticize themselves and look for the inner meaning in everything. That is their strength. The Arabs stick together and believe the nonsense they have concocted amongst themselves, which is spread by antisemitic friends of whom there have always been many and Arab sympathizers and also, apparently, neo liberals. The little problem with history is that you can spin a gossamer web around it but the facts do not go away.