What They Are Saying: A New Palestinian Atlas: Not One for the (Real) History Books!


Historian Benny Morris writes in The New Republic (www.tnr.com) on Oct. 20 that an official Palestinian atlas is a compendium of lies:

"Atlases are never as neutral as they seem. Buried deep in this giant handsome [Atlas of Palestine 1948: Reconstructing Palestine by Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land Society] is a statement of purpose: 'Firstly, the obliteration of Palestine history and lost memory (place names, records, etc.) can be reversed and re-recorded. This atlas is a step in the right direction. Secondly, the reconstruction of the Palestinian landscape is quite feasible from [sic] physical point of view.'

"The second point defines, if somewhat obscurely, the book's political goal, which is to delegitimate Zionism and Israel and to promote the re-Palestinization of Palestine/the Land of Israel, through a process that includes the return of the refugees and the dismantling of the Jewish state.

"To recover Palestinian history and memory, Abu Sitta, a former member of the Palestine National Council and a leading proponent of the return of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, attempts to recreate Palestine as it was before the nakba (defined as 'catastrophe,' in Arabic), or the war of 1947-49.

"The maps are straightforward and scientific. Far less so is the historical and descriptive narrative that precedes them. Abu Sitta's narrative is unabashedly propagandistic and often factually wrong. His promotion of the Palestinian case is relentless, and his vilification of Zionism and Israel merciless. And he does not shrink from chicanery and manipulation of the highest (or lowest) order. The devil is in the details.

"He is forever inflating and, correspondingly, deflating numbers – Arab and Jewish population figures, Arab and Jewish land holdings. The mendacity here is systematic. There are dozens of cases in which there is no correspondence between Abu Sitta's assertions in the text and the references that he purportedly bases them on.

"He makes no mention of the 3,000-year connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel; of the pogroms in Russia in the early 1880s; or of Arab harassment – and occasional murder – of Zionist settlers before 1917. He then nimbly flits over the mass Arab attacks against the settlers in 1920, 1921 and 1929, calling them 'clashes' and 'incidents.' In the last of these, unmentioned by Abu Sitta, 133 Jews were murdered, 66 of them defenseless ultra-Orthodox Jews in Hebron knifed and axed by an Arab mob.

"The reader will come away from this Atlas believing that the Zionists in 1947-49 unleashed a preplanned campaign of 'ethnic cleansing' against hapless Palestinian Arab villagers and townspeople, who were simply sitting at home embroidering folksy shirts.

"The reader will not know that it was the Palestinian Arab onslaught on the Jewish community in Palestine in November to December 1947 that provoked Jewish counterviolence, which then triggered the Arab exodus; and that it was the follow-up invasion of the country by the armies of the surrounding Arab states in May to June 1948 that turned what might have been an ephemeral phenomenon into a still larger tragedy, consolidating and finalizing, as it were, the refugee status of the fleeing communities.

"It is also well to recall, as Abu Sitta does not, that as the Palestinians launched their war against the Yishuv, and as the Arab states with ever-increasing fervor between December 1947 and early May 1948 threatened to join them, most Zionists had one, or rather two, memories [on] their minds: Hebron in 1929 and Europe in 1939-1945.

"Most were sure that, given half a chance, Arab mobs and gunmen would massacre them and their families, as they had done in Hebron in 1929, and re-enact a slaughter to rival the recently concluded catastrophe in Europe. Such things were hardly unimaginable.

"So the Yishuv was determined not to give the Arabs half a chance, and do what was necessary to assure its survival. In April and May, this required – as [David] Ben-Gurion and the Haganah brass saw it, and who really can fault them? – the destruction of Arab militia bases along the main roads between the Yishuv's centers of population and along its borders, which were about to be invaded by the Arab armies. This was the grim logic behind the Haganah's operations in the spring of 1948: either overpower the Arab forces or go under."


Go Ahead and Help Us – As Long as You Don't Tell Anybody!

Columnist Jeff Jacoby writes in The Boston Globe (www.boston.com) on Oct. 19 about Pakistan's dirty laundry:

" 'Pakistan on Saturday welcomed an offer of earthquake assistance from Israel,' the Associated Press reported Oct. 15, 'but said it would have to be channeled through the United Nations, the Red Cross or donated to a relief fund' – on the surface, an unremarkable detail amid the devastation in Kashmir.

"But this is a story worth pausing over. For between the lines, it speaks volumes about the real stakes in the war between the civilized world and radical Islam.

"The magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck on Oct. 8 triggered, in the words of Pakistan's prime minister, 'a disaster of unprecedented proportions in Pakistan's history.' In one terrible upheaval, it killed tens of thousands of people, trapped or injured thousands more, and left an estimated 2 million homeless.

"Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, went on television with an urgent plea for international help. Among the offers of aid that began streaming into Islamabad was one from Israel, which is all too experienced in disaster rescue and relief. When a natural calamity strikes, Israel is often among the first nations to offer help; within 48 hours of the tsunami last December, for example, Israel had airlifted teams of medical and emergency workers, as well as 80 tons of supplies, to the stricken countries.

"But as days went by and the Pakistani death toll mounted, there was no reply to Israel's offer of assistance. The Jerusalem Post recalled the 2003 earthquake in Iran, when the Tehran theocracy announced it would welcome 'all kinds of humanitarian aid from all countries and international organizations, with the exception of the Zionist regime.'

"Pakistan – the world's second-most-populous Muslim nation – had never established diplomatic relations with Israel, but, unlike Iran, its attitude was supposed to be changing. In Istanbul on Sept. 1, the Israeli and Pakistani foreign ministers had met publicly for the first time; two weeks later, Musharraf had shaken Ariel Sharon's hand at a U.N. reception in New York. Equally dramatic was Musharraf's conciliatory speech to the American Jewish Congress on Sept. 17 – the first time a Pakistani ruler had ever addressed an audience of American Jews.

"Yet it was not until Oct. 14 – six days after Israel had communicated its willingness to help the earthquake victims 'in any way possible' – that it finally received a formal response.

"Yes, aid from Israel would be welcome, provided it was laundered through a third party.

"Israel could help save Pakistani lives, in other words, as long as it wasn't too public about doing so."



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