Continuing from the previous post . . . .
|This post shows that the bloodshed that was to stain Palestine for decades to come and through to today was warned about in 1937. It is commonly said that the Palestinians by and large voluntarily left their lands, especially in 1948. This series will produce the evidence to demonstrate that that claim is a terrible myth.Several other myths are also being addressed in this series:
|One reader expressed concern that
I invite others
I set only one condition: that any such comment does indeed address another side to the contents of this post, or to the sources and their content, and not shift goal-posts by addressing other issues that deflect attention from the points made here.
The Royal Commission Meets the Zionist Leaders
The Peel Royal Commission arrived in Palestine in November 1936 to gather information about the tense and often violent Arab-Jewish relations in order to make recommendations for British government policy on Palestine. Nur Masalha writes that “several members of [the Commission] expressed open sympathy for Zionism.” (Expulsion, p. 54)
The Commission met with both Arab representatives and with “virtually every Zionist leader in Palestine of any importance”. Most of the Zionist lobbying, however, took place in London after the Commission returned in January 1937. Zionist leaders — Shertok, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, David Hacohen, Dov Hos — went to London where they forged close relations with the decision makers: the leaders of the British Labor Party and Commission members. The Zionist delegates strongly promoted both partition of Palestine and population transfers.
Actually the idea of partitioning Palestine was initiated earlier in Palestine by a British Commissioner, Professor Reginald Coupland, in a private meeting with Weizmann. This was a major breakthrough for the Zionist movement.
Given the diverse patterns of settlement in Palestine at the time, any type of partition was going to inevitably mean population transfers of some kind.
The population transfer recommendations that the Peel Commission eventually agreed on were the same as those originally proposed by the Jewish Agency leaders of Palestine. (Recall from last post that Ben-Gurion had stated his intention to raise the issue with the Commissioners.)
In March 1937 the Jewish Agency conveyed a confidential plan for transfer to the Royal Commission. Recall in the previous post the passing mention of a non-Zionist member of the Jewish Agency who protested against the transfer idea — Maurice Hexter. Now Hexter was the one who conveyed the transfer plan to the Royal Commission.
Hexter explained that aim of the plan was to solve the problem of land and Zionist colonization in various districts such as the Hula and Beisan valleys. Under the plan, the British government was to consider proposals submitted by the Yishuv settlement companies, such as the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), and the Palestine Land Development Company (Hevrat Hachsharat Hayishuv), all of which were engaged in the purchase of land in Palestine for the collective control of the Jewish National Fund or Zionist private investors. (pp. 55-56)
Hexter explained that the goal of these proposals was
the herding together of the existing Arab villages and their concentration in order to evacuate their territories for Jewish colonization.
Hexter went on to explain that if the Arabs refused to accept their transfer from their lands and put up any sort of resistance to selling and evacuating their lands, then the government was to intervene and
force the people to exchange land and move them from one place to another.
A Royal Commissioner then asked Hexter if the land to be evacuated by the Arabs was to given entirely to the Jewish settlements, Hexter answered:
Our intention is [that they will be] only for Jews.
(Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, Vol. 2, a statement at a meeting of the Zionist Actions Committee, II February 1937, Jerusalem, pp. 16-17.)
But it was another proposal for transfer that had the most impact on the Commission. This was one advanced by the Jewish Agency in a May 1937 memorandum and made available in Ben-Gurion’s memoirs published in 1974.
While the Royal Commission was considering these proposals Professor Reginald Coupland discreetly asked a Jewish Agency representative, Lewis Namier, if the Jews would be willing to help an Arab state financially. Namier made it clear that cash assistance was out of the question but that they would be willing to assist with development of certain regions to assist with the population transfer. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 91.)
Mustn’t Forget the Emir
These plans also required a massaging of the ruler of Transjordan. After all, the Transjordan was to be the place to which the Arabs were to be moved.
The Jewish Agency maintained close relations with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan in order to persuade to accept the influx of large numbers of Palestinian Arabs. Abdullah had been given his power in Amman by the British in 1921. He remained totally dependent upon Britain and desperately needed capital investment to develop his impoverished lands. Ben-Gurion had suggested giving the Emir supreme religious authority over all Muslims in Eretz Yisrael in exchange for opening up his emirate to transferees.
Partition, Transfer & Colonization
The Jewish Agency further proposed the establishment of a transfer company modeled on earlier British and Zionist colonization companies. Half its funds were to be used for the resettlement of Palestinians in Transjordan and half for Zionist settlers in Palestine.
So Jewish lobbying of the Commission was pushing for transfer, partition and effective colonization of the Transjordan.
Last Minute Doubts
But in the midst of these efforts to influence the Commission some leaders began to express doubts.
Moshe Shertok (Sharett) addressing the Mapai Central Committee 5 February 1937:
First of all, almost 300,000 Arabs will exist under Jewish rule. It is not so easy to carry out [population] exchange. . . . And even if they [the British] indeed would want to uproot the Arab population by force, this would result in such bloodshed that the current Arab rebellion in the country would be almost nothing in comparison. Such a thing could not be done without British forces, at least in the transitional period . . . . It is a big question whether [Britain] would have the courage to carry this out. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 15.)
Again on 15 March 1937 Shertok again expressed his doubts (addressing Weizmann, Lewis Namier, Leonard Stein and others) about
whether the Arabs of Zarnuga and Bayt Dajan, to large villages southeast of Jaffa, for instance, could be persuaded to evacuate their fertile land and prosperous citrus plantations in the coastal plain for dry farming in Transjordan. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 70.)
Again on 22 April 1937, addressing the supreme policy making body, the Zionist Actions Committee, Shertok said:
The proposed Jewish state territory would not be continuous; its borders would be twisted and broken: the question of defending the frontier line would pose enormous difficulties . . . . The frontier line would separate villages from their fields. . . . Moreover the Arab reaction would be negative because they would lose everything and gain nothing. . . . In contrast to us they would lose totally that part of Palestine which they consider to be an Arab country and are fighting to keep it such. . . . They would lose the richest part of Palestine; they would lose major Arab assets, the orange plantations, the commercial and industrial centers and the most important sources of revenue for their government which would become impoverished: they would lose most of the coastal area, which would also be a loss to hinterland Arab states . . . . It would mean that they would be driven back (“Zorkim otam“) to the desert. . . . A Jewish territory [state] with fewer Arab subjects would make it easy for us but it would also mean a procrustean bed for us while a plan based on expansion into larger territory would mean more Arab subjects in the Jewish territory.
For the next 10 years the possibility of transferring the Arab population would not be “practical.” As for the long-term future, I am prepared to see in this a vision, not in a mystical way but in a realistic way, of a population exchange, on a much more important scale and including larger territories. As for now, we must not forget who would have to exchange the land. Those villages which live more than others on irrigation, on orange and fruit plantations, in houses built near water wells and pumping stations, on livestock and property and easy access to markets. Where would they go? What would they receive in return? . . . . This would be such an uprooting, such a shock, the likes of which had never occurred and could drown the whole thing in rivers of blood. At his stage let us not entertain ourselves with analogy of population transfer between Turkey and Greece; there were different conditions there. Those Arabs who would remain would revolt; would the Jewish state be able to suppress the revolt without assistance from the British Army? [My bolding. Protocol of the meeting of the Zionist Actions Committee, 22 April 1937, CZA. 25/277; also Sharett, Yoman Medini, Vol. 2. pp. 105-110. Notice also that Shertok repeatedly used the term “netenim” (=subjects) instead of “izrahim” (=citizens).]
These doubts did not stop Shertok from actively assisting with the Jewish Agency’s promotion of the transfer proposal.
Continuing . . . .
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25 thoughts on “Pushing for Mass Transfer of Arabs & Warning of “Rivers of Blood””
I won’t be commenting on this one, Neil.
I’ve enjoyed your other posts on the early church, etc. Thought-provoking, working with the facts that the Church itself leaves out of what they tell us mere parishioners. Balanced.
This topic here is becoming different from that.
I reiterate my point from one of the other posts I’ve commented on today…get out of the arm chair and go there…and go to look at BOTH sides and how they behave. But go in with NO preconceptions either way.
When you’ve done that, I’ll be quite pleased to talk with you and hear your observations.
Since a couple of years I’m enjoying your threads about the texts of the N.T. very much. This really critical and historical approach of the origins of christianity has been neglected too much and too long, also in much scientific N.T. scholarship since the 19th century.
But there is something else also: your comments about Israel and the Palestines make me very sad and worrying. I feel an upcoming story about “the long hidden plans of the Jews”. Plans that are getting reality, and making innocent victims, since the voting in U.N. for the plans of establishing two nations in the Palestinian region.
My big problem is that I can’t see any connection between the Israel-Palestine political conflict and the scholarly approach of the N.T. texts. Because of that, I would ask you: can’t you split up your blog in two different items? It will definitively heighten my pleasure in reading your comments.
I deplore anti-semitism. I do not subscribe to conspiracy theories. I have already been accused of being antisemitic and a conspiracy theorist for these posts, just as I have been accused of being an anti-Christian and a conspiracy theorist for my biblical posts. Biblical studies is a hobby. Exploding myths that dominate our media and our wider culture and that promote our unwitting support for policies and actions that destroy the lives of others — and that indeed are destroying Israel and many Israelis in the long term — is far more important than any hobby.
I hope you can read these posts with an open mind and if need be question some long held assumptions. If you see anything that does not sound right then I would encourage you to question both what I have written and why it does not sound right in the first place.
I think you are missing something very important here.
You say “I reiterate my point from one of the other posts I’ve commented on today…get out of the arm chair and go there…and go to look at BOTH sides and how they behave. But go in with NO preconceptions either way.”
Here’s your problem: Neil’s post is about what happened in 1937. Unless he has a time machine, he cannot go back to that time and look at BOTH sides, can he? Neither can you. Whatever is happening today (I know you are imploring Neil to ignore the past and look at today), it is built on a foundation formed by the past. If circumstances had broken differently, there may have been no modern state of Israel, so why should we start with today and refuse to look to the past to understand how present circumstances came to be? You think you are being rational, but you are wrong.
One thing we all have to be careful of is confirmation bias. You clearly are comfortable with Christian mythicism. Is that because you don’t believe in the validity of Christianity, or something else? Just as you need to ask yourself why you think you agree with Neil about the origins of Christianity (which are no more “mythical” than the origins of Deuteronomic Judaism, which began circa 200 B.C.E.), you need to ask yourself why a challenge to Zionism makes you uncomfortable. The fact that modern politics are front and center is no excuse for abdicating the the responsibility to use your brain. Neil is not a reactionary. He is one of the most thoughtful people I’ve ever encountered in reality or on the inter-tubes. So, man-up and comment, or stop pretending you are above all this when your “non-comment” demonstrates that you won’t accept any challenges to what you already believe.
Good luck. I recognize it is not easy to engage on things you are emotional about, but that’s the point, right? To be rational in the face of the irrational?
At the moment, I prefer to go and read Neil’s thoughtful and insightful posts on the early mythicism. That was what drew me to read his blog.
Debates should still be intellectual only. Respect for differing opinions is a given.
Neil and I have more than adequately stated our thoughts on the matter. No purpose can be served by turning it into an outright argument, just for some spectator’s benefit. We disagree. I’m copacetic with that. I can live with that. And I’m here to read his mythicist series of posts.
To make even one last comment on the subject, and at least try to keep within the guidelines you stated for this particular post…the most relevant information I can bring is to go back a bit before 1937…to the 1920s, although this piece of information does factor into the 1937 period…
The myth of Arabs wanting to push the Jews into the sea…is proven not a myth when one ponders the activities of this one man.
The information here is detailed and substantive. Husseini’s involvement in the 1920s riots where Jews especially of Hebron were murdered, his incitement, is a matter of record. His activities through to 1937 would have factored into Jewish thinking by the time of what you’ve quoted in the post.
Further…a Palestinian Arab family that did have long-term connection to the place over a few hundred years. No dispute about the genuinely long-term families. At all. This family’s links are clear.
Sadly, Sheik Haj Amin Al-Husseini’s behaviour stood in contrast to his brother Kamil.
I admire your courage at looking at this complex and emotional issue and bringing out information. I found your posts factual and neutral. (my own research had turned up heartbreaking stuff…)
Once upon a time…I thought that I/P was not “my problem” because I do not live in the M.E. and am neither Israeli nor Palestinian (though I am a Muslim). Now I think all injustice and oppression are humanities problem because injustice and oppression occur more easily when groups of fellow human beings are “othered”(dehumanized)….and this “othering” is like a virus…it can infect any society/nation. In order to be vigilant against this virus we must know and act.
It is interesting that stories of the “empty land” or of savages trying to drive the “settlers” off “their” land happens between the narrative of the native Americans and the “settlers”. There is an idea that some people are more entitled than others because they are civilized or white or Christian (Jew) or xyz…..It is time to get rid of this virus. We must recognize the rights of all our fellow human beings to SHARE land and resources for the benefit of all.
….and perhaps its not complicated to do…instead of thinking “its mine!”…if we can accept that “its OURS”…we might begin to make progress….?….after all, together, humanity shares this planet!………..
As I see it, you’ve now been quoting ‘Expulsion’ for four (now five) posts; what is your point, it is certainly not a critical review of ‘Expulsion’ (which was published in 1994)?
If you’re looking to advance peace in the Middle East, then – in my view – digging trenches of past grievances is not the way; rather look at real peacemakers in long running conflicts, like Ghandi, Mandela, King etc.: they looked forward, bridged differences instead of emphasizing them.
So I’m not entering in your argument as such, but would like to respond to your challenges to the reader:
‘this claim is a terrible myth”:
– I still have not seen any evidence that ‘this claim is a terrible myth”, i.e. the reason that Palestinians left Palestine in 1948. You have not made any link between all this talk in committees (some preceding 1948 by many years) and the actual events in 1948.
“One side of the story?”
– you uncritically take over Nur Masalha’s view. Is there not the slightest point where you would like to discuss a different opinion?
” fault with the sources”.
It seems that you do not quote any sources that a appear to – even partly – support your ‘terrible myth’: who now says that Arabs left Palestine voluntarily in 1948?; the real debate is whether they were pressured by the Israeli side’s threat of violence, or by the Arab strategy to recall the Arab population.
In that light, you could have discussed more sources. Some examples:
– Jamal Husseini (1948), acting chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, told the UN Security Council: “The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce … They preferred to abandon their homes, belongings and everything they possessed.”
– Emil Ghory, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee (1948): “The fact that there are those refugees is the direct consequence of the action of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously…”
– Azzam Pasha (1948), League secretary,”assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade … Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property, and to stay temporarily in neighbouring fraternal states.”
– Falastin (Jordanian newpaper, 1949): “The Arab states… encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.”
– Refugees, quoted in Jordanian newspapers (1953), “For the flight and fall of the other villages,
it is our leaders who are responsible, because of the dissemination of rumours exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs … they instilled fear and terror into the hearts of the Arabs of Palestine until they fled, leaving their homes and property to the enemy.” and “The Arab governments told us, ‘Get out so that we can get in.’ So we got out, but they did not get in.”
I’m not taking a position in this issue, but don’t you think you could at least mention these differing views from the Arab side?
Thanks for the quotations of what others said happened. They, and no doubt many others, will serve as valuable comparisons against the archival evidence itself.
Do you have any problems with the evidence produced to date that appears to inform us of the intentions and efforts of the Zionist leadership in the lead up to the establishment of Israel? It is actually all evidence from the Zionist and Jewish archives — so it is all really their story, their perspective.
Yes, I am starting at the beginning for a reason (I have in other posts addressed more contemporary events — one series on the history is not forbidden) because it is the history that is always advanced as the justification for what is happening today. The Jews needed their own homeland to ensure the survival of their race and Israel was the only logical choice; the land was virtually empty anyway and those few Arabs in it had no real attachment to the land; and in 1948 they all left more or less voluntarily — these are all myths that are used to justify events today.
I can’t get to the events of 1948 in one post. As I pointed out in the intro, this series is leading to that event.
I could just as easily, in fact far more easily, do posts that focus on the events today or that have been with us in the last 6 months or 6 years. But I know exactly what the response is when I do address such contemporary troubles — yes, but the history…. the history …. the Arabs were never attached to the land, the Israelis have sacrificed so much for peace . . . . The PLO and Hamas have broken every agreement and cease-fire . . . .
What these posts do, I hope, is to begin to give another insight into the Jewish side of the story that has been absent from Western media. Most Westerners are ignorant of the history, the background, to what is today’s situation in Palestine yet will be so quick to support one side and back their government support for one point of view.
If I were posting a series that repeated the public Israeli narrative I can’t help thinking that that would be far less upsetting for some readers.
I must add one thing. If I cited the archival evidence for the real events of 1948 cold turkey I could imagine howls of protest that I was being selective in my evidence, or that I was taking it all out of context, etc. All of this background is necessary to establish the setting and to confirm what was in the minds and hopes of the political and military leaders of 1948 and since — and to clearly establish that the archival evidence for the events of 1948 is not selective, not an aberration, not a misrepresentation, but the logical outcome of years of discussion, planning, political and diplomatic activity by the Zionist leadership and their backers.
Thanks Neil. Suppose I’ll just have to be patient……
Regarding the evidence: I think you are mostly reproducing information from professor’s Masalha’s book ‘Expulsion’. This book was first published in 1992, more than 20 years ago. So you could say that this info is rather dated, and it might be worthwhile if you would use more recent literature. Professor Masalha himself has publsihed 5 books since then, all dealing with this subject.
I find the term ‘evidence’ rather problematic for the information that you present. The information consists mainly of selected quotes from selected people. The selection is made to support a view on the ‘expulsion’ that is held by the authors (selectors). Treating hisorical data so selectively, there is a serious risk that a situation is depicted that does not reflect a balanced view on positions that people held, or even what they meant to say.
And what were the views of the Arab leaders in that same period? Will you also discuss what they said (on- and off- the record), so the reader can also evaluate that ‘evidence’ in the run-up to 1948?
Can you maintain that your tell ‘the story that has been absent from Western media”? Professor Masalha’s books books are widely available in western media, just check Amazon. He teaches at 2 universities in the UK. And there are other authors who published – and continue to publish – on this topic as well.
The evidence is dated, yes — it dates back to the early 1900s. I think it is and will always remain relevant evidence for any historian who wants to understand what happened that led to the situation we have today. If Nur Masalha has been intellectually and professionally dishonest (not unheard of in academia, unfortunately) then I am sure there would be a review somewhere from someone pointing out how he failed to quote the writings of Ben-Gurion, Weizmann, and the others that showed everything he does quote is a misrepresentation. Or if he failed to quote other speakers who said the opposite and told lies about the how votes were cast at the conventions then I am sure Masalha is controversial enough in some quarters for someone to expose him. This is why I am going to pains to point exactly to the sources cited. I would hope many of these are available online or are being made available. I am quite prepared to post retractions if I learn that this evidence I am presenting is a misrepresentation of the intents, plans, attitudes, hopes of the Zionist movement in the lead up to the 1948 war and beyond.
I think the reactions to these and similar posts over the years shows that the information being presented is not commonly broadcast in Western media — by which I mean mainstream news media outlets. The narrative that dominates any official statements by our governments, policies announced by our governments, the news media itself is not informed by the information found here. Yes, his books are published and on sale here, and yes, the author is free to speak here, and I am free to post these details, too. I somehow don’t think people yawn and say, “Tell us what else is new — we all know that story — it’s old hat. We hear it everyday from our leaders and in the news.”
As Crossley himself points out, such an alternative position that questions the dominant narrative is considered harmless while it is confined to a few “renegades” who can be dismissed as “racists” or “cranks”. If Crossley’s survey is any guide, then this is probably one of no more than a handful of biblioblogs (if that) that are posting this sort of information — the overwhelming majority of biblioblogs that do touch issues like this at any time take the dominant narrative supporting the official Israeli line. One other biblioblog did try to post a small series of five posts about the other side and according to Crossley its owner let the protests cower him into stepping back and trying to explain he was not really interested in the political questions. I’m happy that some who protested the loudest when I began no longer do so as vociferously but realize I will continue anyway.
I really would welcome any primary evidence (I don’t mean opinion or anecdotal stories) that does change the meaning and message that these archives and diaries are telling us about the aims of the Zionist movement in the lead up to the establishment of the state of Israel.
P.S. I am well aware Nur Masalha has other books and I have several of them on my shelf, yes, the more recent ones. I additionally have a number of volumes from a range of perspectives surrounding the Middle East. I Nur’s other books do not make the one I am discussing obsolete. On the contrary, it is often cited by other authors and Masalha himself often builds on this one and also branches into other aspects with his other books.
You don’t seem to like what this book contains. Nor do I.
The other day I pointed out probably the most important Arab leader whose actions most likely prompted a lot of the thought on what to do in these things you’re documenting, Sheik Haj Amin al-Husseini.
IF you’re going to bring up these documents and archives, it would be fair to also have the sort of actions Husseini was doing between the twenties and 1937 as a comparison/contrast.
Considering the murderous bile of Husseini, what you have quoted sounds more humane than what Husseini wanted to do to the Jews of Palestine.
Considering Husseini’s links to and friendship with the Nazis, he still should have been tried for war crimes…and there’s a huge inference which can be drawn that his particular efforts may have cost six million Jews their lives, since he vehemently opposed emmigration to Palestine before the Final Solution took its worst turns. Considering some of the Arab complaints I’ve heard is that Israel only came about because of European guilt over the Holocaust…it seems like having a bet each way for that to be said when Husseini’s efforts to stop them escaping Nazi Europe cost so many lives.
Husseini’s antics are still a matter of record.
At least put his antics into the equation in addition to all this stuff you’ve quoted on this, please.
Your comment makes me angry. I have no more time for the sort of person and others like him that you describe than I do for Zionist terrorists who murdered innocent Arabs and British in cold blood. I don’t want accusations of who was more evil than whom etc. We can go back and forth on a list of terrorists and Nazi sympathizers on both sides. That’s pointless and degrading and, quite frankly, antisemitic. Arabs are Semitic, too.
I want evidence. Documentation, that explains the nature and intent of the founding of the state of Israel. Like what I’m presenting here.
This is a historical inquiry, not a session to find some evil Arabs so we can have an excuse to ignore of justify the evil on the other side. It’s not about accusing. The people I’m talking about are all dead. It’s about understanding. And the reason to understand is to find a just position.
Your comment only invites others to respond in kind on the Jewish side of Satan and then we line up a list and see who has the most baddies and the worst baddies.
I have deleted quite a few comments from antisemites on this blog — some very foul posts designed to provoke hatred of Jews by singling out the worse of them — and will do the same for those whose antisemitism is directed to the Arab branch of semites, including those who want to pick and choose the worst examples in a way that blackens an entire race or cause.
Further comments like this will be deleted as an attempt to drag the discussion down to an anti-Arab diatribe. If you cannot handle hearing anything seriously negative about the other side too then please stop reading now.
Neil, regarding the ‘evidence’ (what I would rather call sources): in this blogpost, you make reference 5 times to Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini. I looked for it in order to run a quick check, but this book is not available in a library in my country.
Can you direct me to where you found it? Did you read the Hebrew original, or a translation?
My quotations are from Nur Masalha’s book, Expulsion of the Palestinians. You ask an important question and I will email a few people to see what is available in English.
You can find the nearest library with a copy at http://www.worldcat.org/title/yoman-medini/oclc/701105595
There appears (I think) to be a digital version online at http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000647691 but permissions will have to be sought.
I understand that Yoman Medini means “Political Diary”; a reference is made to it in another article that discusses the Personal Diary of Shertok/Sharett: http://web.archive.org/web/20130513180339/http://www.palestine-studies.org/files/pdf/jps/4337.pdf
There is an academic review of Yoman Medini by G. Sheffer in Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Jan., 1979), pp. 119-120 — Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4282735
Neil, thanks for trying; there doesn’t appear to be an English translation of Yoman Medini in the links you mention, and I can’t find one either. Parts of Sharett’s personal diary has been translated, but that diary covers the period 1953-1956 only.
Seems you set your readers a tall order when you invited them to “demonstrate fault with the sources”!
Are you sure you can be as definitive as you seem to be about dismissing ‘myths’, when most (all?) of your ‘evidence’ has not been verified, and perhaps can’t be verified?
Given the length of this comment I have returned to break it up for easier reading:
There is a huge difference between saying something “has not been verified” and “I have not been able to read the original document”.
Reading myth-busting books
I have recently read two books that have overturned two myths that have been pervasive in history books: one was about the character and role of the Dowager Empress in China by Jung Chang; another was Tom Holland’s historical account of the rise of Islamic empire that argued that the propagation of the Islamic religion was not the primary motivator of the Arab conquests of the seventh century; before then I read “Justinian’s Flea” by William Rosen arguing that it was the plague that caused the fall of the Byzantine Empire. Most recently I listened to/watched a radio and television presentation of a book by Hugh Dolan exploding some myths about the Anzac landing at Gallipoli. I have not directly read all the evidence for these since they are in languages I cannot read and/or I do not have access to many of the documents if I could.
Tentativeness and getting both sides of a claim
Now I am entitled to maintain some reserve with what I have read because of this limitation. But I do not merely decide arbitrarily to decide to agree with one new idea over others or jump on a new idea because I like something radically different. That’s the surest way to ignorance. I read reviews; I read about the author; I see what else the author has written; I especially and above all look for evidence from among his peers challenging his or her thesis and work. And I try to find out a bit about the authors of reviews that are pro and con — where are each of those persons coming from and what is there standing, etc?
I especially do that with the works of biblical scholars. I have made a special point of doing that with the work of “minimalists”. I don’t just read Thompson; I also read Dever’s (and others’) criticisms of Thompson and the rest. (That’s why I was recently trying to encourage another commenter here to be open about his criticisms of a post of mine and not just drop innuendo that my methods or ideas are screw-ball or inferring I am uncritical in my reading of certain authors.)
This is why I have in comments on this series made reference to reviews and the academic standing of the author. Sometimes if a work is ignored by certain groups then that can also be instructive.
How to put an end to these posts
I would expect Nur Masalha to be exposed and his career to be in tatters if other historians — and no doubt there are many other historians with enough motivation to do this — could publicly expose Masalha for fraudulent treatment of his sources. If Nasalha only had a reputation for honesty and professionalism among extremist groups among Palestinians then I would want to look for reasons for this. If I saw that his critics demonstrated that he misused his sources and that he himself had no reasonable reply, then I would not give his book the time of day.
Now I don’t like not being able to read originals. But the reason I tend to take Masalha’s extracts as valid is because he has so many of them from a concentration of these sources and that lessens the likelihood that they are not accurate representations of the thoughts and plans of those to whom they are attributed. There are other reasons, too, but it would be tedious to explore them all in a full length essay on public knowledge verses public belief, etc — I have posted on this before anyway. (Even a later diary in English might be expected to provide some clue — through tone and attitudes and allusions — to the veracity of the earlier one.)
Now none of this means I will remain content with not being able to read the originals in a verifiable translation for myself. And most things I read are accepted with a greater or lesser measure of tentativeness anyway because there is very often room for more evidence and knowledge. But till then we must act and decide according to our best lights.
What I’d like to see
I know there are some very pro-Zionist readers who dislike these posts intensely and my challenge is primarily to them to provide evidence that Masalha’s citations are misleading or unfair in some way. What i expect is reference to Masalha’s professional or editorial peers who can expose fraud in his treatment of the sources. No doubt there will be some malicious things said about him personally (I have not read any but would expect some somewhere) — as there are about Thompson being an antisemite for his treatment of the evidence overturning myths about “biblical Israel”. So it is the evidence itself that I would like to see addressed.
I would like to approach some such pro-Zionist authorities personally to question them, but so often in personal correspondence with people (professors, academics, authors) who take exception to what I write on this blog I get some of the foulest personal abuse or the cold shoulder. I get the impression that they are so livid with me that they would not bother to give alternative evidence even if they knew it. (Or maybe they just know their counter evidence will also be subject to a scrutiny they won’t like.)
Free to ignore, free to demand verification of all
But if you still have reservations about quotations attributed to Shertok/Sharett, then ignore those and look at some of the other sources.
And above all, demand the same critical verification of claims of all sides, not just one side. Don’t accept any claim by a general or politician until you can see it verified in the hard evidence.
Meanwhile, I am (as I said earlier) attempting to find out more through various email enquiries.
Regarding ‘What I’d like to see’.
I think the choice is not between “Masalha is absolutely correct’ and “Masalha is a complete fraud.” It is not necessary to be grossly fraudulent in order to make selected parts of selected sources appear to support your own view. Unfortunately, it could very well be intrinsic to human nature to attach the highest value to observations that agree with our opinions, and ignore – or play down – those observations that appear at odds with our preconceptions.
It is the challenge for every scientist, including historians, to be aware of our bias; a rigorous scientific approach helps us to overcome that bias.
This awareness seems to be lacking in Masalha, judging by your representation of his book: each and every snippet of text that he reproduces from public and private sources seems to advance his own hypothesis about the pre-meditated transfer of Arabs in 1948, without actually proving it.
A review of ‘Expulsion’ in a respectable journal by widely recognised scholar Shlaim stated the following:
“The end result of Masalha’s selective use and tendentious interpretation of the evidence is a rather simplistic account which posits a straightforward Zionist policy of transfer and lays all the blame for the flight of the Palestinians in 1948 at the door of the wicked Zionists. If Benny Morris does not go as far in his critique of the Zionists as his evidence would seem to warrant, Nur Masalha goes way beyond what his evidence can sustain.” (London Review of Books, 9 June 1994.)
Avi Shlaim is emeritus professor of International Relations at the University of Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy.
Well put, in my view.
Thanks. I will be sure to include Shlaim’s views (and others) when I come to the details of the 1948 War period. The period of expulsion was indeed complex. Meanwhile, I trust you find no objection to documenting what key leaders in the Zionist movement who eventually held key positions in the Israeli government felt and hoped with respect to their Arab neighbours.
One little detail, one other criticism leveled at Masalha is ““monolithic and single-minded in its support for transfer, ignoring the reservations, the doubts, the internal debates and the opposition” — I trust those reading these posts will see this is not quite true and that Masalha (at least from excerpts I have provided) does address opposition views, too — against which Weizmann, Ben-Gurion and other leading figures were having to contend.
OK Neil, I hope you will get to 1948 some time soon. Of course I have no objections to you blogging about feelings and hopes of Israeli leaders; their meeting reports, diaries etc. have been known for some time and have been reviewed by various authors.
Your last paragraph (“One little detail….were having to contend.”) illustrates in an excellent way why I insisted on going back to the sources of information, and not just accepting an author’s representation of it.
In the way you cite Shlaim’s view, his criticism (of being monolithic etc.) is aimed at Masalha. If you read the original article of Shlaim, you will see that he actually talks about the representation of the Zionist movement (being monolithic etc.), not about Masalha as an author.
In reading a range of responses to Masalha’s Expulsion I see no dispute over his presentation of what the leading Zionists were hoping to achieve regarding transfer of the Arabs. Masalha is acknowledged as having made clear what today there is no doubt about — that is, the aspirations of the Zionist leadership regarding the Arabs in Palestine before 1948.
Ever since the archives upon which Masalha is drawing were opened up and made available publicly their contents have certainly been known among scholars and probably among more Palestinians than Westerners. The shock and horror that has been directed at me since I began posting the evidence as published by Masalha testifies to how little it is known or even acceptable for open discussion among Westerners.
The point of these posts is not to attack Jews and I have always been careful to identify the Zionist leadership in Palestine — those at the head of the political parties and Jewish Agency directing policy and negotiations with Britain for the establishment of a Jewish state — as the ones who have been the holders of these views.
The founding of Israel is a history that is wrapped in myth among Westerners. We owe it to ourselves and all parties, Israel included, to know more than just the myth and one side’s narrative. This is all the more obvious from the responses that appear every time I post an article that challenges any conventional pro-Israeli or anti-Muslim/Arab perspective here. Challenges to these views are always offensive to some.
It’s not just about the rights and wrongs of 1948 or of any single event. What I think is good to understand is the larger picture, the more complete dynamic, of what has gone into making the situation what it is today.
Part of the understanding of why we have come to embrace the myths we have about Arab expulsions has to do with the way historians have themselves been subject to various ideologies. We speak of history wars in Australia, (probably the US too) and India but the history wars are more complex in Israel. I hope to cover some of that, too.