One thing about those who are historians or who call themselves such, is that one expects that they should provide footnoted references for any assertions that they make, so we can check these assertions out, and thus be able to help us distinguish between real historical fact and research, and simple, or not so simple , propaganda. Sources and footnotes that can be checked for validity are the only criterion we can use to establish fact from fiction. The idea of Wikipedia, for example, is excellent because it requires sources. Unfortunately, there are not not near enough footnote-checkers in Wikipedia, particularly in areas where "propaganda" is rife, eg politics and areas of historical conflict. In such areas, there are many writers and re-writers of history, to draw upon. Are all equally reliable?
Recently I was reading some criticism of the academic and political writer Ali A. Mazrui, an Albert Schweitzer Professor in the Humanities at State University of Binghamton, and author. Ihechukwu Madubuike, a Nigerian fellow scholar and sharp critic of Mazrui writes,
"What is equally troubling is the intellectual dishonesty which the Professor parades about as a universal critic without bias, the pseudo scholarship which contains a large dose of contaminated ideological hypocrisy.
"Mazrui should be able to distinguish between literary criticism from pure propaganda or come out clean and tell us which one he is practicing. By not doing this Professor Mazrui undermines interpretative validity, professionalism and academic freedom." (1)
While this suggests that even in the field of literary criticism one can find propaganda, and the same question can be asked of other fields, particularly history. Is a particular author, whatever his credentials, engaging in scholarship, or in pseudo scholarship contaminated by ideological hypocrisy?
I was recently reading a book of essays entitled The Transformation of Palestine edited by I Abu-Lughod. The first sentence in the preface says "This book supports the Arab case in the conflict over Palestine. The presentation is non-polemical and factual....The Palestinian Arabs did not leave their homes voluntarily or in obedience to instructions from the governments of adjoining Arab states, They fled from fear of death." Blaming Israeli terrorism, Toynbee faults Israel propaganda. (xii-ix Arnold J. Toynbee)
Recently scholarship "in support of the Arab cause" has taken to referring to any Israeli version of events as the "Israeli narrative." This is an interesting use of the word "narrative" in the context of history, suggesting as it does, fiction. Is the Israeli "narrative" really fiction and myth, or is it in fact supported by the facts?
Take for example Walid Khalidi's essay entitled "Why did the Palestinians Leave, Revisited" which can be accessed here, and which continues to be repeated by others (eg see: Esber, pg 37 and Sa'di , Abu-Lughod and Childers)
The Khalidi article begins with a preface by an unnamed individual, returning this 1959 article to public attention and citing this common theme in anti-Israel discourse:
"The myth that the Palestinian exodus of 1948 was triggered by orders from the Arab leaders—a cornerstone of the official Israeli version of the 1948 war and intended to absolve it of responsibility for the refugee problem—dies hard,"Later he calls this story "this central plank of the Israeli doctrine of 1948." The writer's thesis is that there exists an "official Israeli version" --that is to say, an official Israeli myth-- of the Palestinian Arab exodus in 1948 that claims it was triggered by Arab "orders." Khalidi and his fellows tell us that this myth (or "narrative") is used to shift responsibility and blame from Israel and the Jews, where it belongs, in their opinion, and instead lay it on the Palestinian Arabs, who were villagers and innocent victims of a campaign of terror and expulsion by the Jews. (Since all newspapers & historians of the time refer to the "Arabs" and the "Jews", I do so as well. Note: Khalidi refers instead to "Palestinians" and "Zionists")
"A GENERAL THEME running through the Zionist account of the events between November 1947 and May 1948 is that orders were ''broadcast'' to the Arabs to leave the country in order to pave the way for entry of the regular Arab armies."and he goes on,
"I can find no significant trace of this allegation in Zionist sources in 1948, although one would expect it to be made then."
I sure would like to see the actual quote in an official Israeli document(s) somewhere. Broadcast orders were a "general theme"? Yes, the Jews argued that the Arabs hold primary responsibility for the refugees since it was they who started belligerency.
But "broadcast orders?" Radio orders, or "broadcasted" some other way? Were these supposed to be military orders or instructions of the local muktars? We don't know, because we are not privy to any direct quote. If this were indeed a central plank, shouldn't Khalidi have provided us with at least one footnoted reference for a quotation that we could check? After all, it is central to his argument.
Khalidi says he can find no trace of this allegation in "Zionist" sources in 1948. That is, he says he can find no significant trace in Zionist sources? Why would the source necessarily be Zionist? Evidence of supposed broadcast orders should be valid from any reliable source, not merely Zionist sources .
I found a few newspaper references to Arab-sponsored evacuation in Google news archive, like this plan, in '46 from the Arab League: (2) Or this, from '48. (3) about Mufti "instructions". Does the Canadian Jewish Chronicle from 1948 qualify as a Zionist source?
Khalidi goes on to give some examples of some radio broadcast that did not mention this allegation that he says one would have expected to have been made then. He continues, "Shertok disclaimed Israeli responsibility for the refugees, but no Arab evacuation order was mentioned." Not Really. This (4) article demonstrates that Shertok did in fact mention an Arab evacuation order to the UN Security Council. Khalidi is flat wrong.
What is the explanation, he asks, that the Zionists did not mention this in 1948? He then answers his own question with the following explanation "It was only in 1949, when the Zionists realized that the problem of the Arab refugees was touching the conscience of the civilized world, that they decided to counter the damaging influence it was having on their cause." He has yet to provide us with the "Zionist" quote that says anything at all about radio broadcasts, but he has already provided us with the Zionist motive, made up of whole cloth. It is simply a slander.
Now he intends to finger the culprit that first made up this story, and to provide a clue as to where I might find a direct quote of this Israeli or Zionist central plank or general theme!
If I were to place my finger on a single person who is responsible for systematizing the story (if a single person was responsible for doing so), I would probably place it on a certain American Zionist by the name of Dr. Joseph Schechtman, a leading member of the Zionist revisionist wing. He is almost certainly responsible for the drafting of two mimeographed pamphlets which appeared in 1949 under the auspices of the Israel Information Center, New York, in which the evacuation order first makes an elaborate appearance. (pgs 43-44)If he could, it would be Schechtman. He is "almost certainly" responsible for two 1949 (mimeographed! pamphlets) put out by the Israel Information Center* in New York. It was apparently an elaborate story, but we don't have the story or quote yet. Though we do have a motive and a Zionist to pin it on. We have two mimeo-ed untitled pamphlets from 1949 and auspices. I sent for Joseph Schechtman's 1952 book, "The Arab Refugee Problem" from inter-library loan. Turns out that this book is in its third edition, the first being two smaller publications. In his introduction Schechtman mentions the two publications that he made in 1949, and says this 1952 book is based on them.(4) So I eagerly searched for the elaborate story. Unfortunately, the only reference to radio broadcasts is one in Haifa, and for which Schechtman quotes one 1948 article in the Economist. Is this the elaborate story which is a "central plank in the Zionist narrative"? According to Schechtman, the Economist article read in part:
"Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is little doubt that by far the most potent of these factors were the announcements made over the air by the Arab Higher Executive (Committee) urging all Arabs in Haifa to quit...It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained...and accepted Israeli protection would be regarded as renegades." (Schechtman, 1952)
Is this the "elaborate story" made up by Schechtman? It could not be, as it is a a quote from The Economist. Is the article in The Economist mistaken? Possibly. Does the Jewish contention that the impetus for the evacuation came from the Arab side and not the Jewish side contingent upon this Economist article? Not really. Over the air or not over the air, there is plenty of evidence that the Arabs left in large part voluntarily and due to Arab provocation, or because they were "frightened by the war the Arab leadership brought upon them by the Arab leadership."
Schechtman goes on to support the main point regarding Haifa,
" On the second anniversary of the Haifa flight (April 27,1950) a careful review of what happened in Haifa was sent by the Arab National Committee of Haifa -1948 the central Arab authority in the city-to the heads of the Arab states." This memorandum read in part:
"...the removal of the Arab inhabitants from the town was voluntary and was carried out at our request. The Jewish representatives expressed their deep regret at this decision and the Jewish Mayor of Haifa, Shabtai Levy, adjourned the meeting of the Arab and Jewish delegations with a passionate appeal to the Arabs to reconsider their decision.Khalidi continues:
"'It seems', this revealing document continues, 'that the Jews intended to stop the evacuation in order to prove that the Haifa Arabs could live safely and securely under the Jewish rule...The Arab delegation proudly asked for the evacuation of the Arabs and their removal to the neighboring Arab countries....We are very glad to state that the Arabs guarded their honor and traditions with pride and greatness.'" (Schechtman, pg 10)
To return to the order: Surely an order of such importance must be traceable somewhere? You do not ask the entire population of a country to leave without somebody debating the matter , without a decision somewhere being taken. I have gone through the files of the press releases of the Arab League. These releases include every important pronouncement made by the League at the time. There is no trace of an order.
But wait a minute! The only radio broadcast "story" reported (not invented, as implied by Khalidi) by Schechtman was with respect to the town of Haifa, not the entire population of a country. One story in one paper about what happened in one town is suddenly now the official "Zionist" version of what happened throughout Palestine during the war? I don't think so.
Jon Kimche, in the famous "Spectator correspondence," notes "The suggestion that the Israeli case rested on the existence of a broadcast order from the Arab leaders to the Palestinians is a myth invented and exploited by Professor Walid Khalidi..."
What started out as a suggestion is now a full-blown conspiracy theory, parroted throughout the literature of those who support the Arab cause. As Kimche has pointed out "There is now a mountain of independent evidence to show that the initiative for the Arab exodus came from the Arab side and not the Jews. (Spectator correspondence)
The Palestinian "narrative" of an invented story of radio broadcasts as an official Israeli version of the Arab exodus of 1948 is an excellent example of what Madubuike calls "intellectual dishonesty" & "pseudo scholarship contaminated by ideological hypocrisy." What kind of scholarship attempts to debunk a story that is neither quoted nor properly sourced? What kind of scholarship cites a single broadcast in one town, and then exaggerates this as the official version of the Arab exodus from the whole region? The finger of blame for this so-called "myth" was laid on Joseph Schechtman, when in fact Schechtman only reported on an Economist article that exists. In fact there is no proof at all that this is a "central plank" in the "official Zionist version." Khalidi gives not one quote from the Israeli government or Zionists to support that claim. It is not true that there is no mention of any evacuation orders at the time, as newspaper accounts of the time show. Khalidi's claim that Shertok never mentioned this is also wrong.
If this does not qualify as pseudo-scholarship I don't know what does. As Schechtman does in fact say in his 1952 book, "the flight of the Palestinian Arabs is a phenomenon for which no single explanation suffices." (Schechtman, 1952 pgs 4-6). This statement is intolerable, however, for the supporters of the Arab cause since it allows for at least some of the responsibility for the Nakba to fall on the shoulders of the neighboring Arabs, and the Palestinian Arabs themselves, which is intolerable for them. This blatant attempt to put the total blame for the Palestinian exodus on the Palestinian Jews ("Zionists") of the time is a wonderful example of intellectual dishonesty and propaganda masquerading as history.
1.The Other in Literature, Ali Mazrui vs Christopher Okigbo by Ihechukwu Madubuike
2. Fight to the Death Urged by Arabs St Petersburg Times, May 4, 1946: "In Cairo Abdul Rahman Azzam Pash, secretary-general of the Arab League, said some Arab leaders had proposed to transform the Holy Land into a battleground 'for their existence'. He said the proposals called for evacuation of all Arab women and children from Palestine to neighboring countries.
3. Arab Villagers in Mass Exodus from Coastal Plain, Jews, Stand Guard over Abandoned Crops The Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Palcor) - Apr 2, 1948 "Sheik Abu Kishek, head of a prominent tribe in the Tel Aviv area, has been in Cairo, the Mufti's headquarters, for the past month, and reportedly got instructions to evacuate the area."
4. Jewish Agency Charges Mufti Agents Behind Arab Stampede -- The Canadian Jewish Chronicle (Palcor) -April 29, 1948- A spokesman for the Jewish Agency reiterated the charge that Mufti agents were willfully spreading panic among the Arabs and have set in motion a stampede from Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberias and other towns in order to: 1) present the Jews as aggressors: 2) fan Arab youth into wild fighting fanaticism: 3) impress on the Arab states the need for sending their regular armies into Palestine; and 4) absolve such intervention before world public opinion. (A similar charge was made by Moshe Shertok, Chief of the Political Department to the Jewish Agency in a statement to the Security Council last Friday.)
(4) "This publication is an attempt to summarize the essential facts of the Arab refugee problem. Two similar attempts on a smaller scale --''Arab Refugees:Facts and Figures, and Resettlement Prospects for Arab Refugees -- were made by this author in 1949. Their favorable reception made necessary a second revised edition in 1950, which has since been exhausted. Numerous requests continue to come from libraries, universities, organizations and private individuals in the United States and abroad, The valuable publication,''The Arab Refugee Problem. How it can be solved, Proposals submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations. (New York December, 1951) was, to a considerable extent, based on the material contained in the above mention publication. This present edition, which the author now presents the public, is a third edition, rewritten and revised in the light of latest developments."
* Raphael Medoff, in his book , Baksheesh Diplomacy, 2001 (page 178) mentions these two, which he calls "lengthy pamphlets" as having been published by the Jewish Agency in New York,, and not the Israel Information Center.
* Ed Said and Christoper Hitchens, in Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question, Verso Books 1988 (ISBN 0-86091-887-4).
* Erskine Childers Wordless Wish: From Citizens to Refugees ISBN-13: 9780937694220 : Assn of Arab-Amer Univ Graduates
* Spectator Correspondence
* Walid Khalidi Why Did the Palestinians Leave, Revisited Journal of Palestine Studies (subscription) Winter 2005, Vol. 34, No. 2, Pages 42-54
* Rafael Medoff, 2001, Lexington Books p.182. ''Baksheesh diplomacy: secret negotiations between American Jewish leaders and Arab officials on the eve of World War II''
* Abu-Lughod, ed. with foreword by Arnold J. Toynbee The Transformation of Palestine Northwestern University Press 1971.
* Joseph B. Schectman, The Arab Refugee Problem, The Philosophical Library, 1952
* Rosemarie M. Esber Under the cover of war: The Zionist expulsion of the Palestinians 2008
* Ihechukwu Madubuike .The Other in Literature, Ali Mazrui vs Christopher Okigbo
* Ahmad H. Sa'di & Lila Abu-Lughod, Nakba: Palestine, 1948, and the claims of memory, 2007
* The Arab Refugee Problem: How it can be solved, Proposals Submitted to the General Assembly of the United Nations" 1951. Various
--I.M. Stokvis, 2011.