« The Road to Damascus | Main | The Truce Holds »

November 13, 2008

The New York Review of... Palestinian Blamelessness

If you've ever been puzzled by what motivates the rather consistent anti-Israel stance of publications like the New York Review of Books, a recent issue of that magazine provides one useful clue. The reflexive pro-Palestinian sympathies, it seems, are in part related to what could be called the Myth of Palestinian Blamelessness.

In a book review in the Nov. 20, 2008 issue ("Fishing in the Dead Sea"), Colin Thubron discusses several books about the late King Hussein of Jordan, and in the process leaves us the clue, a telling sentence that reveals his — and the magazine's — embrace and propagation of this myth.

Here is his account of the 1948 war, a key turning point in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians:

Abdullah was the grandfather, mentor, and model of the young King Hussein. As a Hashemite and descendant of the Prophet, Abdullah conceived his ancestral destiny as leader of the Arab peoples. With the outbreak of the Arab-Jewish war in 1948, he moved his British-trained Arab Legion in to the Palestinian heartland, ad the ensuing peace left him in control of territory a few miles from the Mediterranean, with the prize of East Jerusalem. So together with Israel—and perhaps in tacit collusion—Abdullah aborted Palestinian hopes for a state ....

The state rejected by the Palestinians.
1947-partition small.jpg

There you have it. The Palestinians, by this account, are not even partially responsible for their lack of a state. The culprits are Israel and Jordan. That the Palestinian leadership repeatedly rejected proposed compromises, including the UN's 1947 partition plan embodied in General Assembly resolution 181, is apparently not considered. Nor does it seem to matter that the Palestinians responded to the UN resolution by starting a war against the Jews of Palestine. (Ironically, the author promotes this myth of Palestinian blamelessness, this lack of critical analysis of Palestinian responsibility, even while approvingly describing the Israeli revisionist historians as "critically analyz[ing] the founding myths of Israel.")

The Palestinians, in reality, would have had a state had they chosen compromise instead of war. Instead, they chose to reject the Jewish state at the cost of their own independence. Israel, for its part, succeeded in defending itself against attacks by the Palestinians, and later by Arab states. And Jordan chose to annex the West Bank instead of turning it into a Palestinian state. But in the alternate reality in which the Palestinians seen as blameless actors (or even an act-less), perhaps the New York Review's anti-Israel tendencies are a bit easier to understand.

(For a rebuttal of Thubron's allegation that Israel "colluded" with Jordan to prevent a Palestinian state from arising, see the chaper "The collusion that never was" in Ephraim Karsh's Fabricating Israeli history: The 'New Historians.' Interestingly, but not surprisingly, neither this book nor its author is mentioned in the pages of the New York Review of Books, according to a web search of the magazine's web site.)

Posted by GI at November 13, 2008 04:50 PM


To be fair, New Historian, Benny Morris makes a strong case in his The Road to Jerusalem: Glubb Pasha, Palestine and the Jews that if the Yishuv and Abdullah didn't actually collude they had discussions in that direction. Had it not been for mutual distrust peace with Jordan taken need not have taken 46 years.

It is not difficult to see why Israel would prefer stable, British influenced Jordanian control of the areas (more or less) allocated to the Arabs under Partition than control by the terrorist, Nazi-collaborator Mufti of Jerusalem. Realistically, that was the alternative.

I am not sure that CAMERA Snapshots is qualified to take sides in this professional dispute among historians nor blame the New York Review of Books for choosing one over the other.

Posted by: deegee at November 28, 2008 01:44 PM

Although I agree with the article, one might argue that at the time, the Palestinian people did not exist, and therefore by definition it was blameless. Palestinian leadership means also nothing since there was no Palestinian people (no definition); "palestinian" leaders means nothing, there were several leaders of several Arab groups.

Posted by: Adacom2 at November 29, 2008 10:23 AM

It could only be considered collusion with the benefit of hindsight. As there was no palestinian people, there was no reason for a palestinian state at the time. Even today, the palestinian problem could be solved by having Jordan take responsibility for the West Bank and Egypt for Gaza. Today the Palestinian people exists in the collective conscience of a certain group of Arabs (even though they do not have any distinctive culture or history), there is no good reason to have a Palestinian state. Egypt and Jordan could annex the territories in a federated or other manner that preserves whatever they want to preserve of their "palestinian" identiy.

The Welsh, Scottish, French Canadians, Druze, Kurds and numerous others do not have states of their own, even though they would be viable. The only result of a second Palestinian independent state (first is Jordan) would be to perpetuate the problem and as a result the threat to Israel, but that is what everyone seems to support right now.

Of course Israel could have solved the problem following the six day war by retreating unilaterally from some territory but this is another piece of 20/20 hindsight.

Posted by: PeaceNow at November 30, 2008 04:27 AM

Guidelines for posting

This is a moderated blog. We will not post comments that include racism, bigotry, threats, or factually inaccurate material.

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)