In an article that would not be out of place were it published by the Institute for Historical Review, the Guardian enlists the services of Abe Hayeem to further its campaign to de-legitimise Israel. Hayeem has all the right credentials for the job, he’s Jewish, hates Israel, is involved with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and is a founder of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, so in Guardian speak he’s the ideal type of Jew.
In his article “The dark side of Tel Aviv” Hayeem paints a picture of a city that was built on colonialism and conquest, a city that ethnically cleansed itself of its Arab residents, a city that quite frankly bares no resemblance to the one that gave shelter to the thousands of Jews who fled Jaffa for a quieter life during the days of the British mandate.
There are huge problems with his article, from the very first sentence, so much so that I feel compelled, as the child of a Tel Avivi, to correct his opening statement. “Tel Aviv”, he claims is , “a city said to date from 1909” is typical Guardian speak. His intonation here is to challenge the very history of the area. It is not “said”, it was. Whilst his revisionist history might claim otherwise, Tel Aviv WAS founded in 1909, by a number of Jews who had a year earlier bought 12 acres of dunes north east of Jaffa, with the aim of building a garden suburb on the outskirts of the pre-biblical city.
Hayeem then goes on to claim:
While there is much on the surface that makes Tel Aviv enticing, this picture must be not be allowed to mask the dark underlying history of ethnic cleansing and land expropriation on which Tel Aviv was built. . .
In reality neither ethnic cleansing nor land expropriation took place. The fledgling city continued to grow on bought land until 1917 when the Turks expelled all the Jews from the area. But as his audience is the Guardian, no need to let facts get in the way of a good story.
And telling stories is something Hayeem is very good at. A few years ago he set up an organisation called Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine. The Independent ran a glowing piece on this organisation that held its first meeting in the office of Lord Richard Rogers, who, apparently gave a ten minute welcome before excusing himself from the meeting. The group’s beliefs are laid out on their website are defined as:
We share the international condemnation of the continuing annexation and fragmentation of Palestinian land through the expansion of illegal settlements and outposts and the construction of the Separation Wall in defiance of international law.
We hold all design and construction professionals involved in projects that appropriate land and natural resources from Palestinian territory to be complicit in social, political and economic oppression, and to be in violation of their professional ethics.
The only problem here is that Hayeem and his merry band of followers see all of Israel as Palestinian land – to his credit however Lord Rogers has distanced himself from the group for various reasons that Adloyada goes into in some depth. The APJP on its home page talks about Palestine and the Occupied Territories, and as the maps on their home page show us they claim that most of Palestine is now occupied. Amazingly, although unsurprisingly, this group of planners fail to mention that prior to 1917 ‘historic’ Palestine also included the land mass known as today as Jordan, for had they actually included it, their whole basic claim of colonialism would be diminished.
But I digress, which is actually easy to do when discussing Hayeem! To prove his credentials, in the article Hayeem challenges the real historiography of the city whilst laying baseless and unfounded claims, which are only verified by groups that have been involved with trying to re-write the history of the region. He quotes organisations in his article as Israeli whilst omitting to inform the ever so uninformed Guardian readers that, for example, Zochrot, solely espouse a Palestinian narrative, so much so that the url uses the term nakba.
But, as Ami Issaroff has noted, re-writing the narrative on Tel Aviv is all the rage right now after Naomi Klein, Danny Glover, Eve Ensler and a few other Hollywood luvvies pushed for a boycott of the Toronto film festival because festival organisers were going to show a number of Israeli films at the City to City event, which this year was celebrating Tel Aviv’s centennial. And after all, if Hollywood luvvies are in on the act why should the Guardian not join in with the fun?