Though I have no problem with Mai Khader and Mahasen Nasser-Eldin’s project nor with the Reader running a cover story on it [November 12], I do have a problem with lack of context for this story, especially in today’s world, where no one bothers studying history and few have the contextual background to appreciate what they are reading. The way the story reads without any context is that these brutal and overpowering Jews kicked a bunch of innocent Palestinians out of their homes in the late 40s and kept them in camps thereafter.
The facts, as some of us know, are rather different. The Jews (isn’t it comforting to keep calling them Zionists in the article, a common ploy by Arabs to play on some unknown and frightening ideology, rather than identify the Jews as Jews?) at this moment in history were weak, barely armed, and hugely outnumbered by both Palestinians and the surrounding Arab countries, all of whom had announced their intention of pushing the Jews into the sea and destroying them completely. Under these circumstances, a little, or even a lot, of overreaction would be expected. After all, we live in a country that for 50 years felt justified in holding the entire world hostage to nuclear annihilation in order to preserve our only theoretically challenged “national security.” Try to imagine yourself surrounded by sworn enemies with armies and a hostile, armed group of people living in your midst, and say that you wouldn’t have your finger on the trigger or be anxious to uproot this hostile group. Of course, we also live in a country that took care of its equivalent of the “Palestinian problem” through genocide, broken treaties, and “reservations,” and still shows no remorse. Those Palestinians that stay in Israel, on the other hand, became citizens with voting rights and representatives in the Knesset.
I agree that what happened to the Palestinians was a tragedy. It was also compounded by the treatment they received at the hands of their Arab neighbors, who kept them in refugee camps as political pawns for a long time rather than try to resettle them and integrate them into their countries. The Jews in the late 40s did indeed do some heinous things. Only a fool would think that any group of people is incapable of brutality in wartime (look at the recent revelations about some of our actions in the Korean War), but there is a difference between cold calculated brutality and brutality in the face of a threat to one’s existence. I would like to invite your readers to study this era and the conflicting claims about whether the Palestinians were encouraged by surrounding Arab countries to flee to the invading armies and then return in triumph. Truth is a pretty fragile commodity, but in this case even if everything alleged in the article is true, context has an explanatory power that should be included.
Fifty years later, some Palestinians still talk of eliminating the “Zionist Entity” (I’m sure they don’t mean to harm any Jews though) while others are trying to come to grips with reality and finally regain a homeland of some sort. Just as the Peace Now and other sympathetic Jews are trying to tell the hidden truths about their past, it’s time for some like-minded Palestinians to come forward and admit that just maybe some of the massacres the Arabs committed were not in response to Jewish provocation. When all sides admit that all good is not on their side, perhaps a real peace might be possible. More justification through victimization is not going to help anyone.