The Guardian: anti-Israel advocacy as journalism

The Guardian’s ongoing efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel take many forms.  This latest incarnation comes in a positive review, by Rafael Behr, of a book written by “revisionist” historian Avi Shlaim.  (Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations by Avi Shalom, Oct. 3, The Observer/The Guardian)

Behr’s review of Avi Shlaim’s book – a collection of essays about the Middle East – doesn’t even pretend to be objective, nor does it note that Shlaim is universally regarded as a fringe, radical, anti-Zionist historian who is a proponent of the “one state solution” – a euphemism for replacing Israel with an Arab-Muslim state and reducing Jews to a permanent minority.

Behr, it should be noted, gave a very positive review of the uniformly discredited book by Shlomo Sand, called: The Invention of the Jewish People.  Sand’s thesis: There is no such thing as a Jewish people; today’s Jews have no connection to biblical Israelites or to Jews who inhabited Israel during the time of the Second Temple. Writing in The New RepublicHillel Halkin characterizes Shlomo’s book as “deplorable”, and noted that assertions made in the book have long been staples of Arab and anti-Zionist propaganda and are the “the exact opposite of the truth.”

Behr’s egregious journalistic bias begins early in his review when mocks the Israeli narrative of their history:

“In Zionism’s case, the story told is of Israel restored to the Jews from antiquity, carved from empty desert, “a land without a people for a people without a land”. By extension, Arab hostility to Israel’s creation was irrational cruelty directed against an infant state. It is a romantic myth requiring a big lie about the indigenous Palestinian population.”

Behr continues:

“[Israel’s] expropriation [of Palestinian land] was, in Shlaim’s analysis, the “original sin” that made conflict inevitable. He also sees the unwillingness of Israeli leaders to recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian grievance as the reason why most peace initiatives have failed.”

Of course, this historical analysis is an utterly breathtaking moral and historical inversion.  It ignores Arab states’ unwillingness to accept, or in any way legitimize, a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East, even within 1947 borders; the initial attempt by 5 Arab armies to annihilate the nascent state on the day of its birth in 1948; and subsequent Arab wars in 1967 and 1973. (Egypt’s President Nasser openly declared, a few weeks before the ’67 war, that his goal was nothing less than the complete destruction of Israel). These were not tactical wars meant to slightly alter the borders, or gain a better hand in subsequent negotiations but, rather, to completely annihilate the Jewish state – a mission taken up with increased fervor more recently by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Behr and Shlaim both ignore Israeli efforts to make peace: including their withdrawal from the Sinai after the Camp David Accords in 1979, and their unilateral withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000, and Gaza in 2005.  In addition, Prime Minister Barak’s offer in 2000, rejected by Arafat, would have included a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.  (Both President Clinton and his lead negotiator, Dennis Ross, confirmed that blame for the failure to produce an agreement rests with the late Palestinian President)

Shlaim also, in the same book, referred to Israel’s birth as the “creation of a gangster state headed by ‘an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders”.  He described their behavior as “merciless,” accused the state of “unremitting brutality,” and of engaging in “totally disproportionate” and “indiscriminate” violence.  He also accused Israel of being  “a rogue state.”

Not surprisingly, Behr’s column produced these comments by readers:

For Shlaim, Israel is an eternally morally compromised entity whose leaders can do no right. What is the source of his visceral bias, resentment, and hatred for the one Jewish nation – enmity which often seems simply impervious to objective historical analysis, facts, or logic?

The same could be asked of the Guardian.

7 replies »

  1. Easy, the basis is spiritual – he’s obeying his master, Satan, the liar and father of lies.

  2. It is interesting to note that Shlaim, like several others has taken his family’s personal history of failure or/and hurt in Israel and turned it into a crusade against the country.

    Other examples are Neve Gordon (wounded in 1982), Rachel Shabi (failed Iraqi family history in Israel), Daniel Machover (parents investigated by the Shin Bet for their anti-israeli activities), Ilan Pappe (dismissed for falsifying his research), Dafna Baram (rebelling against the famous family), Avraham Burg (failed politician).

    The “histories” and writings of people like this are really attempts at self-justification and revenge for the difficulties and personal slights they feel, real and/or imagined, rather than dispassionate attempts to present a reasoned view of the events of the last 100 years or so in the ME.

  3. Isn’t Shlaim the fellow who has stated publicly that truth is less important to his work than reaching the desired ideological conclusion?

  4. It was his buddy Ilan Pappe I think. He says that facts atre less important than “narratives”. You know the Ilan Pappe who gives interviews to German neo-Nazi papers.

  5. Well, I should have guessed that my comment on the Behr thread was too much for the Guardian to take. They deleted the whole thing including this link, which clearly points to some personal complex Avi Shlaim has suffered from since boyhood (a common problem among Israel critics, as AKUS rightly points out above) .
    I suggested that Shlaim, the son of Jewish refugees from Iraq, was suffering a bad case of Stockholm syndrome, and that he had sold his soul in order to be accepted as an Oxford gentleman academic.

  6. Zamalek you make me giggle. I well remember the second generation Jews who shuddered with embarrassment at the foreign accents, manners and often dress of their parents or grandparents who had made the difficult transition to a new country in order to give themselves and their descendants a better chance at a new life. Shlain sounds like one of these shallow adolescent beings, most of whom usually gain in wisdom as they mature.