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 Republic, Hillel 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.”
“[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.