This was hardly the first article in Counterpunch I read that brazenly claimed Israel should not exist; in fact Counterpunch runs that line more frequently than the Daily Express headlines the British weather. It is undoubtedly Counterpunch’s ‘thing’. I often wonder what goes through someone’s minds as they write a sentence that denies Israel’s right to exist, a sentence that carries the implication of the absolute rejection of liberal thinking and the denial of democracy. I wouldn’t normally address such a one-sided tale but felt I had to use it to highlight how the truth has been stolen from us; how we have allowed discussions on the conflict to move away from us, away from truth, and into a realm of absolute fiction.
I accept people have opinions that differ from mine, accept too that people viewing an ongoing situation may have sympathies that skew their perspective in different directions; however what is wrong on any level is a deliberate rewriting of historical events; selective and deliberate revisionism in an attempt to sell an extreme and venomous opinion to people who may actually be fooled into believing fiction over fact. The more extreme the opinion, the worse the ethical implications of the distortion; and at the point where such historical tampering creates an artificial justification to destroy a liberal democracy and deprive over 8 million citizens of their democratic freedom and independence; then by any benchmark, the author has crossed all reasonable lines of acceptable discourse.
So having read Garry Leech’s recent 3,380 word fiction in Counterpunch, I felt compelled to pen a response. Leech starts as all those positioning themselves in this way do, by declaring that anti-Zionism is not the same as anti-Semitism. Perhaps not, but if we mirror the argument, the fit becomes much cleaner; almost all anti-Semites would naturally be anti-Zionists. Given this, and the prevalence of anti-Semitism, it becomes rather disingenuous to so casually disregard the correlation between the two positions. It may be a persistent cry of all those adamantly opposed to Israel, but it clearly contains a failed logic.
Leech then comments on the very “creation of a Jewish state in the middle of the Arab world”, as if there was a better place for it that was simply overlooked. Historically, Jews had only ever experienced life as a nation in that region, Jews had always had a presence in that region, and even outside of British Palestine, a million Jews were still living as second class citizens in the ‘Arab world’. The description of the return of a nation that had led to the founding of Christianity in Jerusalem, and the emergence of Islam in Mecca as something ‘foreign’ to the Middle East is an absurdity devoid of all historical fact and context. This denial of Jewish history is heard only from those with no intention of discovering or speaking the truth; there is no other reason to metaphorically burn history books.
But this is only a scene setter for the many fictions which follow. What Leech cleverly does, what the propaganda boys in the BDS marketing campaign do, in fact what anti-Zionists always do, is steal the narrative and edit it until it becomes a nonsensical whitewash. Every possible event that could explain Zionist or Israeli behaviour is removed; and when rational explanations for actions and events are excluded, all that is left is the insane. Israel becomes the irrational, expansionist, brutal nation of extreme pro-Palestinian propaganda, simply by leaving out some of the details. It is really that easy.
The anti-Zionist narrative requires Balfour, and so 1917 remains inside, as does the Mandate in 1922. But almost everything that occurs between 1920 and 1947 is problematic; explaining as it does the creation of the Zionist defensive positions, the British exasperation and call for partition, detailing the explosion of Arab violence against Jews and highlighting the Arab rejection of every solution tabled. So a whole bottle of whitener is taken to the page; the attack on Tel Hai, riots in Nebi Musa, the massacres of Hebron and Safed and Tiberius and Jaffa and the great Arab revolt, all get deleted from history; Read Leech’s article, one day it was 1922, the next day Palestine woke up in 1947.
Quoting the Arab position from Arab delegates in 1922
“Nature does not allow the creation of a spirit of co-operation between two peoples so different”
Having time vaulted to 1947, we receive multiple distortions in a few short sentences. We are told that the Zionists deprived Palestine of independence despite the fact the Arab aggression led to partition and the Palestinians flatly rejected the independence they were offered; that the Jewish partition was larger than it should be whilst neglecting to mention the entire Southern section in the Jewish side was a desert; and that the Palestinians were not invited to discussions about partition when in 1947, as in 1936, they simply refused to co-operate.
But in 1948, the whitener is needed again; there are too many unwanted facts. So the story simply jumps to 1949. In a single sentence the civil war, the Arab irregular armies entering Palestine and the May 1948 attack by all of Israel’s neighbours are simply airbrushed out. Over 1% of the entire Jewish population of Palestine killed in a battle of survival against an aggressive attack by all the regional Arab states and not a single word in the article about the conflict.
The author now creates Israel as the world’s greatest evil, opting to choose a historian described as “at best” the “world’s sloppiest”, to support his position. So, having successfully removed all Arab aggression and context from the scenario, we are told that by 1949, “Israel had destroyed more than 400 Palestinian villages”. No explanation given. Israel has become the insane aggressor; the bogeyman of the future BDS movement.
Quick-fire distortions then follow. We are told that Israel “massacred thousands of civilians”, despite the fact that 1% of the Jewish population died and almost 5% suffered injuries. Israel apparently “forcibly displaced almost a million Palestinians”, which is simply not true. 700,000 Palestinians left the arena of conflict; much as many Iraqi and Syrian civilians left theirs. Up to 100,000 of the wealthier Palestinians had already left by March, whilst the British were still in control. There is little disputing Israel would have cleared some areas of any possible hostility, but to translate that into the sole cause of the Palestinian exodus is absurd and negates everything we know about civil war conflicts. 3 million Syrians have fled Syria, without anyone needing to force them out.
The article then goes on “Over the next three years, 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, mostly from Europe”; which is another clear distortion. By this time immigrants were also flowing from the Arab lands. By 1951, 71% of immigrants were from Muslim lands, not Europe. So the statement is absolutely wrong and historically should read “Over the next few years, over 700,000 Jews immigrated to Israel, mostly having fled or been expelled from Arab nations”.
This immigration is one of the most uncomfortable issues for anti-Zionists; as with India and Pakistan, the Israeli / Arab conflict saw a population exchange, with nearly a million Jews from Arab lands ending up as refugees in Israel. Whilst these Jewish refugees from Arab lands were absorbed by Israel, the Arab refugees from Palestine were held in a ‘stasis cube’ for use as a weapon, with little regard for their well-being. Unlike *every other* refugee situation in history, the Palestinians were deliberately allowed to fester by their own leadership and the Arab nations that claim to support them.
It is now 1949. The armistice lines have been drawn. The area has been split into two; a two state solution. On the one side is Israel, on the other every inch of the West Bank and Gaza are in Arab control. Time surely to declare the Palestinian state – only it never happened.
And so another time tunnel needs to be created. The period between 1949 & 1967 is the most glaring of all the issues surrounding the conflict. If the settlements are the problem, if Israel is the barrier to peace; then why wasn’t Palestine declared a state in 1949? Why didn’t they absorb and house the refugees in their new state just as the Israelis did? These questions must not be asked. And so we leave 1949 and by the next sentence in the tale of fantasy we have awoken in 1967.
At this point, the author can begin to relax; whilst he still picks and chooses facts as they suit him, he has already successfully set his story. And Israel the aggressive ethnically cleansing colonial state, has now become Israel the brutal occupier. The fictions and excuses continue, the 1964 creation of the PLO’s war against Israel is swept aside to give us an implied post 1967 declaration of aggression, Hamas are excused even the horror of bombing civilian buses and the blockade of Gaza, supported by the Quartet of Russia, France, the UK and US in response to Hamas belligerence, comes about apparently, because that is what Israel simply decided to do, alone, for no reason.
And there is more; the wall, historically recorded as a response by Israel to incessant suicide attacks is put in place simply “to segregate the illegal settlements from Palestinian communities”; and it is apparently a bad thing that Israel has constructed industrial zones in the West Bank. Then of course there is the accusation of Apartheid, and the obligatory quote from a South African that agrees with him to force home the point. This one apparently goes further, claiming that Israel is “infinitely worse”, just in case we had any doubt about how far they are willing to take the ridiculous comparison.
But Leech is not finished. Not content with merely attacking Israel, Leech has to distance himself from the two-state solution, and having described Hamas as a rational response to Israel’s blatant aggression, Leech now places himself firmly behind their cause accusing moderate Palestinians, the PA and even Arafat of “collaborating with the Colonizers”. Apparently because they have been “paid off” by Western Governments, the PA has become Israel’s police force in the PA areas.
There is little point highlighting every distortion that follows nor in addressing a conclusion built from cherry picked incidents from a calendar that jumps through time; in essence what follows is merely the description of strategically placed elements on a made for purpose canvas. The conclusions were set in place, long before he wrote the first word. That these themes are heard in universities is mind numbing, that Leech can talk of ‘reality’ in his conclusion is stunning; his is an entire work of fiction. Leech, the BDS, anti-Zionists have all created an entirely false narrative; one we have allowed them to develop.
We have to reclaim the narrative. 1922-1947 is not ancient history, it is vitally important; contained within those years are the seeds of every single event that was to unfold. If you have a fundamental question about the conflict; you’ll find the answer in those years.
1949-1967 is not ancient history; it is a glaring error in the entire Palestinian narrative. The two-state solution already existed and without an Israeli settler on Palestinian land. It cannot be simply ignored that nothing was done, no state was built, no refugees returned. That the PLO was founded 3 years before Israel took the West Bank and Gaza is not a historical irrelevance.
There is no point; and I repeat, no point, arguing with someone about post 1993 events if the very basis of the conflict is not dealt with. The anti-Zionists are deliberately focusing their attention only on the occupation, only on post 1967; because only if they do so can the false narrative be sold. We must not let them; this is not a Narnian tale, it is a conflict with a well recorded historical timeline.
- The Arab violence of the early mandate is important; without it there is no need for the Haganah.
- The Arab violence of the later mandate is important; without it there is no partition.
- The rejection of partition is important, without it there is no civil war.
- The Arab rejection of Israel is important, without it there is no regional conflict.
- The fact the Arabs held the West Bank is important; There was already a two-state solution.
- The actions of the Arabs in 1967 are important; without them there is no occupation.
We must always explain what happened, why it happened and the order in which it happened. We can argue amongst ourselves about how much land each of us feels we should give, but we should not ever give up even one inch of the truth.