In your “Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church” you claim that “The Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) and their allies have once again mounted initiatives that advance an extremist posture with respect to the Palestinian-Israeli impasse. Their agenda threatens to polarize our community, betray relationships with our Jewish colleagues, and ultimately undermine our credibility as “peacemakers.” Your letter bristles with accusations and attacks, but entirely lacks validation. Apparently you believe that there is no need for validation, as you believe your position to be the only valid one. The position taken by the Israel Palestinian Mission Network (IPMN), in your opinion, has no substance at all.
Without validation, Reverend Leighton, your claims and accusations are nothing but a lot of rage and shouting, which people use when they hear something that they do not want to hear, because hearing is too painful. The Afrikaners of South Africa did not want to have Apartheid challenged, so they punished anyone who challenged it. Ultimately, they failed. Shouting and accusing does you and your cause no good at all. It intensifies the opposition. Your cause, and the cause of your allies, Rev. Leighton, is a lost one. As Miko Peled, the son of General Matti Peled, has said, “All Israeli are settlers, all of Israel is occupied Palestine.” That is the truth, and no amount of caterwauling and yelling will change it.
Reading your “open letter”, I am reminded of a book that I reviewed several years ago. The book, by Efraim Karsh, is “Palestine Betrayed”, which Howard Sachar, author of A History of Israel, called “A work of meticulous, even exhaustive scholarship which must be taken with great seriousness and respect by historians of diverse points of view. Indeed, any student of modern Israel will ignore at their peril its sheer cornucopia of factual revelations” It is also known, as I said in my review, for “the sheer abundance of its factual exclusions.” Throughout the 336 pages of this supposedly scholarly tome, professor Karsh presents the Palestinian people as being their own worse enemy. From the flyleaf to the last page, his position, nowhere substantiated, is that the Palestinian people, by their resistance, bring disaster down on their own heads. Here is a quote from my review:
The following two quotations, one from the first page, the other from the last page of the text (257) establish the parameters of Professor Karsh’s study. “For Jews all over the world, this was the fulfillment of a millenarian yearning for national rebirth in their ancestral homeland. For Arab political elites, it was a shameful surrender of (a however minute) part of the perceived pan-Arab patrimony to a foreign invader.”
“And so it goes on. More than six decades after the Mufti and his followers condemned their people to statelessness by rejecting the UN partition resolution and waging a war of annihilation against their Jewish neighbors, their reckless decisions are still being re-enacted by the latest generation of Palestinian leaders… Only when Palestinian and Arab leaders change these dispositions and eschew their genocidal hopes will the refugees and their descendants be able to leave the squalid camps where they have been kept by their fellow Arabs for decades, and will the Palestinians be able to look forward to putting their self-inflicted `catastrophe’ behind them.” Substantiation? Not one syllable. Their supporters? He sneers at them. Following is another quote from my review.
“To Professor Karsh there is no need to present the Palestinian point of view, because to him the Palestinian point of view is not valid. Yet there is no evidence from his research that he ever tried to assess it, and he excoriates those historians (like Ilan Papé, Shlomo Sand and others) who have. “It is indeed a historical irony that, since the late 1980’s, much of the Palestinian historiography has been written by Israeli `new historians’ … younger, politically engaged academics and journalists who claim to have discovered archival evidence substantiating the anti-Israeli case. These politicized historians have turned the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors transformed into hapless victims and vice versa” (page 4). He goes on to claim that these “new historians”, instead of unearthing “new facts or offer[ing] new novel interpretations”, they have “recycled the standard Palestinian Arab narrative of the conflict” (page 5). His evidence? A Survey of Palestine. Prepared in December 1945 and January 1946 for the Information of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry (repr. 199) in full with permission from Her Majesty’s Stationery Office by the Institute for Palestine Studies, Washington, D.C), Vol. 2, pp 570-80; the Peel Commission Report, p. 91; and Aharon Cohen: Israel and the Arab World (London: W. H. Allen, 1970), p. 228. No mention of the sources they have used, no questioning of same, just dismissal of them as “politicized historians” who, being “politicized” are biased whereas he, somehow, is not.”
From the simple exercise of reading the modern history of this region, the following things have occurred to me, but not to Professor Karsh, and not to you or your colleagues at: that large numbers of new, mostly European immigrants would have seemed invasive to Palestine’s indigenous population … that the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the UN’s declaration in 1947 to create a Jewish State in Mandated Palestine would have caused alarm bells to go off in the Middle East … that it is normal to expect that Palestine’s Arabs and their supporters would have fought against what they viewed as another in a long line of European colonialist adventures … that the continued expansion of illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories and Arab East Jerusalem is a problem … and that Israel’s Arab citizens are treated as second class citizens. All of these things are extensively documented, but not by Professor Karsh. Does this represent “meticulous, even exhaustive scholarship”? It does not.
The same is true for you and your colleagues in the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies. You attack, you dismiss the testimony of the contributors to the study guide, and make disparaging remarks about the rabbi that contributed to it. As I said at the beginning of my addendum, Rev. Leighton, your shouting and accusations accomplish one thing, and one thing only: They focus our attention on what is r really going on in Israel and Palestine. As for Israel remaining a Jewish state? It cannot, as that would keep all non Jewish citizens and residence as an underclass without hope. And that is not acceptable.
For an interesting article on the subject of Israel and the Palestinian people, you may find this article of interest