Inaccuracy fuels student group’s, columnist’s comments on Jews

O By Daniel Levin

on Oct. 15, the University ultra-radical group Students for Justice in Palestine sponsored an event concerning human rights in Israel. The teach-in featured keynote speaker Na’eem Jeenah, a South African activist. While the intention of the lecture was to discuss alleged similarities between the South African apartheid and the current Middle East conflict, Jeenah’s speech and Students for Justice in Palestine comments quickly turned from statements about issues into a vicious, racist diatribe. Jeenah commented twice during his presentation that “Jews have no racial connection to the land (of Israel).”

Regardless of what he would like to believe, Jews have a long-standing and documented connection with the land of Israel, beginning with the Twelve Tribes around the year 1200 B.C. and spanning more than 3,000 years. Since that time, the size and nature of the Jewish community in modern-day Israel has varied greatly, ranging from a vast kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital to a divided northern and southern kingdom, and from a large population under occupation by the Romans to numerous smaller communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the subsequent years of occupation until worldwide waves of immigration began in the 19th and 20th centuries.

While the nature of the Jewish landscape in the land of Israel has changed drastically over the past 3,000 years, Jews have maintained a constant home in what is now referred to as the state of Israel. Jeenah even failed to limit his false comments to those concerning Jews. He also arbitrarily grouped all Arabs living in Israel as “Palestinians,” despite the fact that large groups of them consider themselves Israeli and serve in the Israeli military as proud citizens.

Surprisingly, the truest tone of the meeting was expressed not in the bigoted statements of Jeenah but in the remark by a Students for Justice in Palestine spokesperson: “Palestine will be free from the river to the sea.” A T-shirt present at the event also juxtaposed a picture of an Islamic terrorist with those same words. A slogan like this, which calls for the complete destruction of the state of Israel and the deaths of all its inhabitants, is not a political statement but a racist appeal for mass murder.

Unfortunately, the Students for Justice in Palestine and Jeenah have been successful in converting University students to their irrational, bigoted and false point of view, including the outspoken columnist Scott Laderman. In one of his most recent pieces, Laderman once again demonstrated his lack of understanding when he discussed the issue of approximately 720,000 Arab refugees’ flight from modern Israel at the call of their leaders in 1948. He states that information on the Friends of Israel Web site discussing these refugees “has been debunked.” Sadly, Laderman fails to offer any evidence of this purported debunking. Instead, he refers vaguely to “the scholarship on precisely this issue” by three historians. His list includes the long-outdated work of British writer Erskine Childers, ultra-biased and self-interested speeches and writings by Walid Khalidi and the theories of modern Israeli historian Benny Morris, whose research will be addressed shortly.

The facts are as follows: The massive movement in 1948 of the Arab inhabitants of today’s Israel was in response to insistent and repeated calls for their emigration by their own leaders. A multitude of credible sources exist to support this fact. For instance, the Economist, a highly respected and long-standing British publication which has been known to present viewpoints that are skeptical of, if not opposite to Zionism, reported on Oct. 2, 1948, that “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit…. It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.” Even Benny Morris, one of the Israeli historians Laderman cited, has reported from his research that the Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following the March 8, 1948, instructions of the Arab Higher Committee, ordered women, children and the elderly in various parts of Jerusalem to leave their homes and that “any opposition to this order … is an obstacle to the holy war … and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts.” Morris even went on to say that the absence of the women and children in these villages “tended to sap the morale of the menfolk who were left behind to guard the homes and fields, contributing ultimately to the final evacuation of villages.”

If even this is not enough evidence, then I direct your attention to a statement made by Haled al Azm, prime minister of Syria in 1948 and 1949, who, in his memoirs, wrote, “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave. Only a few months separated our call to them to leave and our appeal to the United Nations to resolve on their return.” An admission by one of the former Arab leaders accused of calling for the Arabs to leave their homes is about as irrefutable as evidence can get.

In his comments, Laderman went so far as to attack Friends of Israel on the basis of their sources, historical knowledge and intentions. It would, of course, be improper for anyone to point out that one of the sources supporting Laderman’s assertion has stated quite clearly, in writing, the exact opposite of what Laderman is attempting to argue. Consequently, I believe it would be most proper to pose one of his own questions back to him: Is peddling factually flawed pseudo-history how you expect to demonstrate the legitimacy of your views? Jeenah, Students for Justice in Palestine and Laderman consistently and intentionally misrepresent aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to further their own political agendas. They now resort to inappropriate statements and flat out lies to rationalize their cause and slander and libel their opponents. “Chutzpah” is certainly the word.

Daniel Levin is a member of the Friends of Israel Executive Committee. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]