The revisionists are still hard at work in their attempts to recast the history of Israel’s birth. Without fanfare the Israeli Education Ministry has approved a textbook for Arab third graders in Israel that concedes the war that gave birth to Israel was a form of ethnic cleansing.
Textbooks for Israeli children make no such claim. But Israel’s revisionists maintain “new evidence” warrants a reconsideration of the past.
Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian at Haifa University, argues Israel was born with lands forcibly seized from Arab inhabitants, which he describes as ethnic cleansing.
What Pappe overlooks is that the UN partition of Palestine created two states, one Arab-Tranjordan and one Jewish-Israel. Jews had a history of living in the region for millennia. In fact as early as 1853 there were more Jews living in Jerusalem than Arabs.
When the Arab armies of Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq declared war against the nascent state of Israel, the Mufti of Jerusalem and other Arab leaders told the residents of Palestine to leave as a precondition for war. The understanding was these people would return when the Jewish state was defeated. Of course, that didn’t happen.
While Pappe contends Israel comprises 90 percent of Palestine “surrounded by electric fences and visible and invisible walls,” he overlooks the fact that the Palestinian Authority controls the West Bank, Hamas controls Gaza and the nation of Jordan is intact as an Arab haven.
This tiny sliver of land called Israel has been transmogrified into the presumptive enemy of more than two-dozen Arab states. It is as if the entire East Coast of the United States were to declare war on New Jersey.
Moreover, the Palestinian claim of a right to return is yet another example of historical revisionism designed to redress the supposed wrongs of the past through the outright destruction of Israel. As any analyst of the region knows, approving of Arab historical claims leads ineluctably to the demographic overhauling of Israel as a Jewish state.
That an Israeli professor makes these assertions is not surprising. Israeli universities suffer from the same left-wing contagion one finds in American institutions of higher education. It is also the case that Israel permits, indeed encourages, open debate. Where in the Arab world is this possible?
Presumably an elusive yet truthful account of Israel and the Palestinian territory can be the anchor on which a negotiated peace may rely. But progagandists in Israel and the Palestinian side have something else in mind: an incensed Arab population that relies on resentment as the basis for the adjudication of issues.
Perhaps that explains why – sixty years after the UN declaration forming the state of Israel – Arab states refuse to recognize the Jewish nation. It explains why Arafat and his successors have refused to negotiate in good faith calling for what in essence is a Palestinian state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
In May 1948, survivors of Hitler’s concentration camps and Jews who had lived in Palestine for generations joined together to herald the dawning of a new era. But their vision of peace was eroded by Arab resentment.
It is always possible to rewrite history based on new interpretations of the past. A snippet of evidence can alter perspectives and truth is an elusive muse. There is, of course, some justification for the claim some Arabs were victims, but there must be a moment when resentment is converted into realism, when the demons in the collective Arab soul are purged, when Israel is accepted as a state and hostility is converted into stability.
But none of this can occur as long as propagandists roil the waves of history and provide ammunition for the warriors of a new final solution.