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Thursday, October 20, 2005

Here we go again

Nothing out of the ordinary about this article from the Independent; just a textbook example of how the orthodox left-liberal narrative of Israel and Palestine is perpetuated.

I’m not particularly shocked to find a Palestinian writing a strongly partisan account of the conflict. Goodness knows there are plenty of equally one-sided narratives emanating from Israel and its supporters. What does appall me is the uncritical collusion of the author of the article.

I can well believe that her experience as a child in Jerusalem in 1948 was extremely frightening. The Jewish experience of having their state attacked on the first day of its existence can’t have been any too comfortable either. Donald Macintyre should know better than to write of ‘the war that ended with the creation of the state of Israel’. Israel had already been created, by resolution of the United Nations. The war was about the determination of the state’s Arab neighbours to strangle it at birth.

Ghada Karmi evidently has at her fingertips all the horror stories of the Palestinian victim narrative – date, location, number killed. And she produces the standard victim-wail:

"The Jewish problem is a world problem; not our problem. We were not responsible for Hitler, World War II, the pogroms. We had done nothing of this kind. But the Western powers, the European powers and later the United States joined in and decided that we would foot the bill. How on earth can anyone be expected to accept that?"

So what exactly do you mean by ‘the Jewish problem’, Dr Karmi? It seems to me that the only real ‘problem’ there has ever been is the one Jews have with all the people who keep wanting to oppress, exclude and kill them. And by ‘people’ I don’t just mean ‘Europeans’. ‘We had done nothing of the kind’ is a statement that will be accepted by Independent readers because they are hardly ever told anything different. In fact there certainly were pogroms in pre-war Palestine (and, yes, retaliatory violence from the Jews, for whom flight was scarcely an option – where were they supposed to go?). During the war the Palestinian leader, the Mufti of Jerusalem, was an adoring fan of Hitler who fully approved of the latter’s solution to the ‘Jewish problem’ and did everything in his power to ensure that Jews fleeing from Europe would be turned away from Palestine. Again, does Mr Macintyre not know all this, or did he feel it would be bad manners to challenge Dr Karmi?

Taking a broader view, life as a minority in the Arab world was admittedly not the low point of the Jewish experience – but of course that isn’t saying much. Constantly at the mercy of whatever was the current take on the Quran’s profoundly ambiguous attitude towards them, they could by no means take their physical security for granted, and anything resembling equal rights was out of the question. How many Independent readers, I wonder, know that there was a pogrom in Baghdad in 1941, in which between 100 and 200 Jews perished?

Dr Karmi’s experience of diaspora life in England seems, comparatively speaking, to have been idyllic. She congratulates her family on their tolerance of their Jewish neighbours in Golders Green. Whether she gives the latter any credit for their reciprocal acceptance is unclear. Her worst experience in England seems to have been finding herself in a minority in her reaction to the Six Days War. Well, that is always a danger in a democracy, but she presumably does not have so many worries of this kind nowadays. Certainly not where Donald Macintyre is concerned. He writes of ‘triumphant Israeli forces overrunning’ the territories they occupied, effortlessly evoking the standard anti-Zionist stereotype of the Rambo Jew. The fact that the Arab forces were poised to ‘overrun’ Israel in order to wipe it off the map has no place in this narrative.

On one point I do agree with Dr Karmi. The Palestinians in Gaza need to stop being being aid junkies and revive their own economy, for which trade and contacts with Israel are indispensable. She seems to have forgotten, however, that the border crossings are closed to stop them being used by terrorists. And if it’s not even safe for the Israelis to open their borders, how can there possibly be a case for forcing them into a Palestinian-dominated single state? History gives them not the slightest grounds to expect that they could enjoy their present democratic and civil rights within such a state – or even, indeed, that the Palestinian majority would enjoy such rights. To take one example, would this hypothetical state be guided in its approach to gay rights by the example of liberal Israel, or by the bigotry and the brutal oppression that prevail across the rest of the Middle East?

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