And Ignatiev, a little-known Marxist activist and professor who argues from fringe Web sites that Zionism is racist and Israel should be eliminated, was the man chosen by a respected publisher to teach students, educators and the rest of the world about Zionism and Israeli history.
Gale, a Cengage Learning company, which publishes under its Macmillan imprint the new Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, inexplicably commissioned this radical anti-Zionist to write the encyclopedia’s entry about, and entitled, “Zionism.” Predictably, the article is marred by distortions of history and false information, and in no way resembles the impartial, scholarly overview that the public expects from a serious encyclopedia.
In a letter to Gale, CAMERA noted that Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people, does not belong in an encyclopedia dealing with race and racism, as it is neither race-based nor racist; denounced the editors’ judgment in commissioning a biased partisan to write about Zionism and Israel; pointed out that the encyclopedia’s discussion of only Jewish nationalism, and no other type, represented a disturbing double standard; and provided the publisher with an extensive list of falsehoods and wild distortions in the text, which should have disqualified the article. Other organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America and the Anti-Defamation League, have contacted the publisher with similar concerns.
[W]e have begun to commission a series of articles for the online edition of the encyclopedia that will address these objections in several ways. We will commission several articles on Zionism that engage perspectives other than those given in the current article. Gale will work with well respected scholars to plan these additional articles and to identify authoritative authors. In addition, in recognition that national movements do not equate to racism, we will commission articles that address other forms of nationalism in order to present this topic in a broader context. (Emphasis in original)
Mainstreaming Extremism, Entrenching Falsehoods
There would be nothing particularly extraordinary about a fringe, radical author being invited to purvey misinformation on a fringe, radical Web site. Even if somewhat disconcerting, at least the misinformation would be just where it belongs: far outside the realm of mainstream credibility.
But Gale’s decision to commission and publish Ignatiev’s article, which was essentially copied and pasted directly from a piece he wrote for Counterpunch, a virulently anti-Israel and self-described “radical” Web site and newsletter, is extremely alarming.
“Gale’s role as publisher of the encyclopedia is not to present a particular viewpoint on any topic, but to provide well-founded information that presents a broad scope of knowledge and views on a subject,” explains the publisher. “Further,” it adds, “while we cannot and do not shy away from controversial views, we are committed to providing comprehensive, respectful coverage.”
It is this promise, and the corresponding popular perception of encyclopedias as indeed being a source of comprehensive, broad and well-founded information, that makes this case such a profound violation of the public’s trust. We teach our children to turn to encyclopedias, not to fringe Web sites, for a fair overview of a topic. We send students to encyclopedias, not to radical and partisan newsletters like Counterpunch, for accurate facts presented in context. The general public, too, feels comfortable relying on these generally reputable sources.
The Encyclopedia of Race and Racism, though, broke its promise to readers. Those who open its pages with the expectation of impartiality and accuracy instead get dishonest activism. What is being advocated, moreover, is nothing less than the denial to the Jewish people, and only the Jewish people, of their right to self-determination. Worse yet, the piece on Zionism essentially accuses Jews — not all Jews, but most Jews — of being racists; and it charges Judaism — not all of Judaism, but mainstream Judaism — as being supremacist.
Ignatiev’s piece is also notable in that it meets a number of items on the European Union’s list of “ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the state of Israel.” While noting that “criticism of Israeli similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” the European Monitori ng Centre on Racism and Xenophobia’s working definition of Antisemitism expressed that the following acts, among others, are possible manifestations of antisemitism:
- Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor).
- Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
- Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
Ignatiev, and in the case of the first two examples, the encyclopedia, does each of these. The article performs as miserably with respect to Natan Sharansky’s three-part definition of antisemitism.
By putting its imprimatur on such work, Gale mainstreams these false and dangerous ideas, and gives credence to the demonstrable falsehoods they rest upon.
Errors and Distortions
A central distortion in the article is the very claim used to justify including a chapter on Zionism in an encyclopedia about race — namely, the claim that Zionism is a race-based, and therefore racist, movement.
• The author writes: “Because it defines Jew not by religious observance, language, place of birth, or culture but by descent, Zionism is an ideology of race.” (Emphasis in original.)
The whole premise of the article hinges on this supposed definition of Jew by “Zionism”; but the encyclopedia’s definition is false.
While the question of who is a Jew is a complex and in certain respects unsettled topic, Zionism simply does not define Judaism as a race, and does not regard itself as an ideology of race. Zionism is the national movement of the Jewish people, a group that includes individuals of many races who indeed see themselves as tied by religion, culture, history, and even, to some degree, language (since religious Jews everywhere worship and study in Hebrew). In other words, the Jews are seen as a nation — “a people who share common customs, origins, history, and frequently language” according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language definition of that word — and this nation’s aspiration for self-determination was given the name Zionism.
Ignatiev’s specious claim that Zionists see Jews as a race requires him to ignore even what he himself later acknowledges in the article:
Under Israeli law, anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish, unless such a person converts to another religion. … At the same time, the State of Israel … has extended the Right of Return [sic] to persons who lack a Jewish mother but have an affiliation with Jewish identity by marriage or inheritance through the male line. In addition a few individuals have gained Jewish status by converting to Judaism and having their conversion officially approved.
That is, people who convert to Judaism through accepted religious authorities are considered Jewish, regardless of their racial origins. People who convert from the religion are not. Clearly, being Jewish does not depend on race, a fact that renders all of Ignatiev’s discussion throughout the article of supposed “Jewish privileges” in Israel completely irrelevant to the topic of “race” or “racism.”
It is also telling that the exhaustive, 89-page article on Zionism in The Encylopaedia Judaica, also published by Gale, does not once use the word “race” to describe Zionism.
• Ignatiev likewise misleads readers on the relationship of Israel to race when he falsely claims that “[t]he legal foundation for a racial state was laid down in two laws passed” by Israel. (Emphasis in original.)
In fact, neither law that he cites is the basis for a “racial” state. Israel’s Law of Return, which he states “permitted any Jews, from anywhere in the world, the right to immigrate to Israel and acquire citizenship,” rests upon the determination of who is a Jew, which as noted above does not at all depend on race.
Nor did the Absentee Property Law, the second law Ignatiev points to, make Israel a “racial state.” The law, which was a product of Israel’s fight for survival against Arab armies in 1948, referred to Palestinians who fled the country during the war, with a focus on citizens of enemy countries or those who fled behind enemy lines. It transferred to a government-appointed custodian ownership of property held by those Palestinians, but did not target Palestinian Arabs who demonstrated a willingness to live in Israel by staying in their homes. It was “a consequence of the circumstances surrounding the establishment of the State and not a result of national discrimination,” explains Ori Stendel, author of The Arabs in Israel (pg. 196).
But the fabricated linkage of Zionism and race is hardly the article’s only dramatic deception.
West Bank Almost Empty of Arabs?
• Gale outrageously tells readers that “the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank continues without interruption,” and that the West Bank is close to being empty of Arabs:
Meanwhile, the expulsion of Palestinians from the West Bank continues without interruption. It appears that the dream of one of the principal architects of the Jewish state is close to being realized: As Joseph Weitz, former chairman of the Israel Land Authority, stated, “Among ourselves it must be clear that there is no place in our country for both peoples together. The only solution is Eretz Israel, or at least the western half of Eretz Israel, without Arabs, and there is no other way but to transfer the Arabs from here to the neighboring countries, transfer all of them, not one village or tribe should remain.” (Emphasis added)
Putting aside for now the question of how representative the Weitz quote is, the assertion that his vision is “close to being realized,” supposedly as a result of uninterrupted expulsions, is absurd.
Expulsions from the West Bank are virtually nonexistent, with extremely isolated exceptions. The truth about West Bank Palestinians is in fact the very opposite of what Gale would have its readers believe. Population growth in the West Bank is currently estimated at nearly double the global rate. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics believes that the Palestinian population in the West Bank has increased 25 percent in the past decade. And according to one study‘s projections,
The most extreme results in terms of population growth are found in the case of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Even under the low scenario, which combines very rapid fertility and mortality declines and rapid educational improvements, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip more than quadruple in population size in the fifty years of the projection period due to the high momentum of past population growth. (IIASA Interim Report IR-97-046)
• As to Joseph Weitz’s comment, Gale appears to adopt the practice, occasionally seen in unscholarly polemics but not befitting of a reputable encyclopedia, of relaying only uncharacteristic, disagreeable statements by a controversial figure and simultaneously hiding from readers the contradictory evidence that abounds.
Historian Ephraim Karsh, citing comments in favor of peaceful coexistence by Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Je’ev Jabotinsky (both of whom hold a much higher place in the Zionist pantheon than the relatively minor Weitz), notes that “mainstream Zionism not only took for granted the full equality of the Arab minority in the future Jewish state but went out of its way to foster Arab-Jewish coexistence.” On more than one occasion Ben-Gurion relayed his view that Jewish and Arab inhabitants of Palestine should have “complete equality, civil, political and religious…” (Ben-Gurion, Rebirth and Destiny of Israel, pg. 127). Another major Zionist leader, Chaim Weitzmann, said before a Zionist Congress that “Palestine must be built up without violating the legitimate interests of the Arabs” (qtd. in Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, pg. 181). There are many such statements to be found. Yet Gale deceptively fails to relay any, or any other information that would refute the fringe viewpoint advocated in its article.
The 1948 War
Equally stunning are a number of patently false and distorted assertions about the 1948 war between Israelis and Arabs.
Under the heading “The Birth of Israel,” the article asserts:
Even before the proclamation of the State of Israel, the Zionists had begun driving out Arab residents. The attack on the Palestine village of Deir Yassin in April 1948, in which Zionist paramilitary forces under the command of the future prime minister Menachem Begin massacred more than 250 Palestinian civilians, thereby sending a message to others that they should depart, is the best known example of how this population transfer was brought about. Some fled bombing attacks from British planes directly aiding the Israelis. In the war that ensued, the Zionist forces, trained and equipped by Britain and with additional arms from other countries, were easily able to defeat the outnumbered and outgunned forces of Jordan, Egypt and four other Arab states, whose rulers had already accepted the partition of Palestine.
• The rest of the paragraph is no less dishonest. The article’s discussion of the outbreak of fighting in 1947 begins with, and is limited to, Ignatiev’s reference to the Zionists taking action “even before the proclamation of the State of Israel.” This insinuation that the Jews initiated the fighting by attacking and expelling Arabs is another brazen inversion of the facts. Again, as even one of Ignatiev’s own sources explains,
… the Palestinian Arab leaders, headed by the exiled AHC chief and Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al Husayni, rejected Partition and launched a three-day general strike, accompanied by a wave of anti-Jewish terrorism in the cities and on the roads. […]The United Nations General Assembly vote of 29 November 1947, which supported the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, prompted Arab attacks and sniping against Jewish passers-by in the big towns, and on Jewish traffic on the roads, the following day. The [Arab Higher Committee], which completely rejected Partition, declared a three-day general strike … thus releasing the Arab urban masses for action. On 2 December an Arab mob, unobstructed by British security forces, stormed through the Jewish commercial centre of Jerusalem, looting and burning shops and attacking Jews. Arab and Jewish snipers exchanged fire in Haifa and attacks were launched on the [Jewish] neighbourhoods in Tel Aviv which adjoined Jaffa and its suburbs. (Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, pgs 6, 29)
The source, which Ignatiev supposedly had consulted, further notes that from the end of 1947 to April 1948, Jewish forces (i.e. “the Zionists”) opted for a defensive strategy in hopes of maintaining good relations with the Palestinian Arabs. But by April, it became clear the strategy of restraint had failed militarily. The Jews, facing the prospect of being wiped out in the anticipated invasion by neighboring countries, switched to offensive operations. Yet even before this switch, and importantly, before the incident at Deir Yassin, about 100,000 Arabs left their homes, some at the urging of their leaders, and some despite appeals by their Jewish neighbors for them to remain. In its attempt to recast the Jews in Palestine as racist aggressors, this information is excluded from Gale’s account of “the birth of Israel.”
• The battle of Deir Yassin occurred in the context of this fight for survival. The article got it wrong in suggesting the Palestinian flight was solely a result of “massacres” by the Jews; but its reference to Deir Yassin is flawed in other ways, too. The claim that “more than 250 Palestinian civilians” were killed goes beyond even the most excessive casualty estimates, which have been discredited by current historiography. In fact, the encyclopedia’s number is more than double the figure given by Israeli and Palestinian researchers. Uri Milstein puts the total number of Palestinians killed, combatants and civilians alike, at 110. Benny Morris estimates the total to be between 100 and 120 people. Ephraim Karsh says 100. And Palestinian researchers Sharif Kana’ana and Ni had Zeitawi assert the number does not exceed 120. (See, respectively, History of Israel’s War of Independence, pg. 377; The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, pg. 138; Commentary, “1948, Israel, and the Palestinians — the True Story”; and “Deir Yassin,” Destroyed Palestinian Villages Documentation Project of Bir Zeit University.)
The author also misleads by failing to mention that the killing of civilians at Deir Yassin, which occurred during, and reportedly after, a fierce gun battle, was perpetrated not by the mainstream Zionist Haganah militia, but by dissident groups. It fact, the attack was roundly condemned by the Zionist establishment. Gale and Ignatiev conceal this obviously relevant information from readers — just as they do throughout the article where inconvenient facts arise.
• Finally, Ignatiev’s description of Israel “easily” defeating its “outgunned” Arab neighbors with the help of the British, who “directly aided,” “trained” and “equipped” the Israelis, is wildly incorrect.
The claimed ease with which Israel won the war is belied not only by the Jews’ precarious position in the early months of the civil war, but also by the fact that Israel lost a full one percent of its population during the fighting. Initially, the supposedly outgunned Arabs outnumbered comparable forces of the Jewish state and possessed far superior firepower. In his account titled History of the War of Independence, Uri Milstein calculates that Arab states possessed 165,000 troops supported by a budget 36 times that of the Haganah, the Jewish army (Volume II, pg. 294). Total Jewish forces were calculated at approximately 40,000. Although the Arabs did not commit most of their troops to the fighting, those they did started off far better armed than the Jews. In The Arab-Israeli Wars, A. J. Barker estimates that Arab armies possessed 270 tanks, 300 aircraft and 150 field artillery pieces at the beginning of the war in 1948. The Jewish forces, by contrast, possessed 3 tanks, no aircraft and 5 field artillery pieces.
The claim that the British directly supported Israeli troops with training and equipment during the 1947-49 war is preposterous. That the Jews managed to turn the tide and accumulate more arms over time occurred despite British efforts — rather than supplying the Jews, the British sought to prevent them from acquiring arms — and due to Jewish success in acquiring arms surreptitiously.
A small number of Jews did receive limited training to defend against Arab attacks in the 1930s; and during the early stages of World War II, faced with the possibility of a German assault into the Middle East, the British organized a few Jewish companies. But once the German threat faded, the British disbanded these Jewish units and adopted a policy hostile to any independent Jewish fighting force. By way of contrast, the British officers had for many years trained and administered the armies of Egypt and Transjordan. The Arab Legion of Transjordan had been financed by the British government and was led by former British general John Baggot Glub and a staff of as many as 67 British officers.
Then British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was in fact a vigorous opponent of the Jewish homeland believing it went against British interests in the region. The British sought to reduce the Jewish state’s viability by limiting its size and in particular urged the Arabs to seize the Negev in order to preserve British access to the Middle East from its bases in Egypt (Ephraim Karsh, Fabricating Israeli History, pgs. 152-159). In fact, Britain only agreed to stop supplying arms to the Arab states because it feared the US would otherwise lift its embargo, to the detriment of the Arab armies. Bevin explained to his ambassador in Amman that while the British had “of course no desire to delay the delivery of arms” to the Arabs, “[t]he advantage which the Jews would obtain from a lifting of the American embargo in their favour would be out of all proportion to any advantage which the Arabs in Palestine could derive from our shipments to the Arab States” (qtd. in Karsh, pg. 167).
Anti-Jewish Violence and the History of Zionism
The opening definition of Zionism is distorted and seriously misleading with regard to the movement’s fundamental goals. While correctly noting Zionism aims “to foster creation of a Jewish state,” the section entirely omits mention of the discrimination and extreme violence against Jews in Europe and Russia that underlay a key Zionist goal — that of creating a safe haven for imperiled and/or disenfranchised Jews. The language refers merely to “anti-Jewish sentiment” and, ambiguously, to “widespread resentment of Jews,” suggesting some degree of ill-feeling toward Jews — perhaps even warranted — was all that triggered the Zionist response. Likewise, Ignatiev later refers to “the sympathy Jews had won as victims of Nazi persecution” as a reason for “the triumph of Zionism.” Just as murderous pogroms are mere “sentiment” and “resentment” in the encyclopedia’s account, Hitler’s “Final Solution” — the systematic murder of 6 million in an attempt at genocide — is characterized only as “persecution.”
Jewish Desire to Emigrate To Palestine
Ignatiev tries to show that Jews “did not choose Palestine.” Most Jews, he claimed, had “no interest” in settling in Palestine; by contrast, the Soviet Union was highlighted as an especially popular refuge for Jews:
In the years between 1920 and 1932, only 118,000 Jews moved to Palestine, less than 1 percent of world Jewry. Even after the rise of Hitler, Jews in Europe did not choose Palestine. Out of 2.5 million Jews who fled Europe between 1935 and 1943, scarcely 8.5 percent, about 200,000 persons, went to Palestine. Almost two million went to the Soviet Union, 182,000 to the United States, and 67,000 to Britain — in spite of strict quotas on admissions in the latter two countries.
• This discussion of Jewish immigration is specious. Jews’ preference for Palestine as a destination was rivaled only by their desire to immigrate to the United States. Moreover, Ignatiev’s figures for the number of Jewish refugees fleeing Europe and the number fleeing to the Soviet Union are patently false.
Beyond that, his reference to quotas on admissions to the US and UK is disingenuous in its attempt to strengthen the case that Jews had little interest in Palestine. This is because Ignatiev ignores the quota most relevant to the topic — that imposed by the British White Paper of May 1939, which placed sharp limits on the number of Jews allowed to legally immigrate to Palestine. It’s not that Jews did not choose Palestine. It’s that they could not choose it. European Jews desperately sought to reach Palestine, and thousands perished on unseaworthy ships attempting to run the British naval blockade. (See, for example, the story of the SS Struma).
Also telling is the article’s strange omission from its discussion about immigration of the years 1933 and 1934. (The passage above references 1920-1932, and 1935-1943.) The omission of these two years, during which about 85,000 Jews immigrated to Palestine, skews the data, as they represent the second- and third-highest number of yearly immigrants in the period between 1920 and the establishment of Israel.
Contrary to Ignatiev’s assertion that Jews “did not choose Palestine,” a 1945 report on displaced Jewish refugees in Europe prepared by Earl G. Harrison, U.S. President Harry Truman’s envoy to displaced persons’ camps, unequivocally determined that Palestine was “clearly the choice of most” Jews in the camps. Likewise, in the pre-war years and early war years, from 1933-1942, Palestine was a favored destination for many Jews seeking refuge from an increasingly hostile Europe.
Ignatiev deceptively manipulates Jewish population migration data to falsely demonstrate the Soviet Union as the preferred destination of the largest number of Jews seeking refuge from Hitler. The following table derived from reputable sources shows the destinations of Jewish refugees from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia from 1933-1942:
In addition to the above figures, 90,000 Polish Jews and 11,700 Rumanian Jews emigrated to Palestine from 1932 through September 1939. 82,000 non-Reich Jews emigrated the United States between 1933-1942
These figures were derived from statistics published by the American Jewish Yearbook between 1933 through 1954, Encyclopedia Judaica, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Israel Gutman, editor-in-chief), Yehuda Bauer’s Flight and Rescue, Ariel Dagan’s The Jews of Czechoslovakia and Josef Fraenkel’s The Jews of Austria.
In other words, the two main final destinations of Jewish refugees from Europe were the United States and Palestine. The British Commonwealth and Latin America also received large numbers. The Soviet Union was desired by few refugees.
• If Ignatiev’s reference to 2.5 million total European Jewish refugees of whom 2 million fled to the Soviet Union is false, where do his figures come from? There are two possibilities, neither of which supports Ignatiev’s contention.
1) The Soviet-German non-aggression pact of 1939 divided Poland and sanctioned Soviet occupation of the Baltic states. The territories annexed by the Soviets contained nearly two million Jews. Ignatiev’s assertion that Jews “went” to the Soviet Union clearly does not apply here.
Some Jews in the German-occupied zone of Poland did flee to the Soviet-occupied zone due to its proximity. This was the only alternative to the brutal Nazi occupation, since it was not realistic for them to make their way to Palestine, and hardly reflects a choice. Macmillan’s own Encyclopedia of the Holocaust reveals in its entry on the Soviet Union that Ignatiev exaggerated by ten-fold the number of refugees who fled to Soviet territory:
In 1939 and 1940, the Soviet Union annexed eastern Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia, and Bukovina, territories with a Jewish population of 1,880,000 to 1,900,000; in addition, 250,000 to 300,000 Jewish refugees were living there who had fled from German-occupied Poland after the outbreak of the war. (Volume 4, pg. 1383, emphasis added)
2) After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Ukraine, Belorussia and the western regions of the Soviet Union fled or were evacuated eastward ahead of the German advance. Since these Jews were already citizens of the Soviet Union and fled into the Soviet interior, not by choice, but by necessity to avoid being slaughtered, this has no relevance to Ignatiev’s argument that Jews chose not to go to Palestine.
To buttress its claim of Israeli racism, the encyclopedia makes a number of fabricated statements about Arabs in Israel.
• It falsely refers, for example, to West Bank roads “for Jews only” on which “Arabs are forbidden to travel.” There are no such roads. (Certain West Bank bypass roads are occasionally closed to non-Israeli Palestinians; but are open to all Israeli citizens, regardless of whether they are Jewish, Arab, Christian or Muslim.)
• The author also claims that in 1966 “the system of military administration” governing Arabs in Israel was only “partially lifted.”In fact, as noted by Bernard Reich, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs, “the military government was abolished” that year (The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa, fourth edition, Westview Press, pg. 273). Numerous other scholars similarly describe without qualification an abolition, as opposed to a “partial lifting,” of the military government. (See, e.g., The Legal Status of the Arabs in Israel, David Kretzmer, pg. 4; Arabs and Jews in Israel: Vol. 2, Sammy Smooha, pgs. 252-54.)
• Also blatantly false is the assertion that “Arabs do not serve in the armed forces.” In fact, Druze Arabs are drafted into the Israeli armed forces; and while Muslim and Christian Arabs are exempt from compulsory military service, they have the option of enlisting, and some do.
• A variety of unsupported, distorted and erroneous claims relate to Arab housing in Israel. Among these is the statement that “Building licenses are routinely denied to Arabs, and obstacles are placed in the way of Arabs when they seek to build homes.”
As multiple studies have shown with regard to building in, for example, Jerusalem, the main Arab population center, licenses are granted to Arabs and extensive building is underway.
An analysis by Justus Weiner, a scholar at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, notes that both Arabs and Jews typically wait 4-6 weeks for permit approval, enjoy a similar rate of application approvals, and pay an identical fee ($3,600) for water and sewage hook-ups on the same size living unit. (Illegal Construction in Jerusalem)
Weiner observes that “the percentage of applications that result in the issuance of a building permit is virtually identical in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods” of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the study shows, the city has “authorize[d] the issuance of in excess of 33,000 permits for new housing units in the Arab sector,” suggesting that the number of permits issued to the Arab sector could be much higher if only more individuals from that sector would apply for permits.
Moreover, since 1967 new Arab construction has outpaced Jewish construction.
A separate study by Israel Kimhi, former Municipal City Planner for Jerusalem, resulted in similar findings. Kimhi writes that between 1971 and 1994 “the Jerusalem Municipality granted permits for 9 million square meters of built area for residential purposes, 12% (1.1 million sq.m.) to the Arab sector” (Arab Building in Jerusalem: 1967-1997, pg. 37). Since the density of apartments in the Arab sector, excluding the old city’s Muslim Quarter, is 1.9 units per dunam, one can extrapolate that permits granted in those years covered roughly 2090 units.
Because of the relative rarity of house demolition by Israeli authorities, vast illegal, unlicensed building also occurs. This is attested to by Khalil Tufakji, the leading Palestinian building and demography expert, and no friend of Israel, who boasted on CNN:
We can build inside Jerusalem, legal, illegal — rebuild a house, whatever, we can do. Maybe we lose ten houses, but in the end we build 40 more houses in East Jerusalem. (CNN, Sept. 19, 1998)
Even to the casual observer, the Arab building boom is apparent in and around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. Likewise, the many lavish Arab houses that can only be described as mansions given their size and grandeur are readily observable.
• The Histadrut labor union is another example cited to cast Israel as a racist state. Early in the piece, Ignatiev states that “The effort to establish a Jewish monopoly extended to industry, and the Zionists formed an institution, the Histadrut, to organize Jewish workers and exclude Arabs from competing with them in in the labor market.” He later repeats that the Histadrut “was born as a combination labor union and cooperative society for Jewish workers,” before adding that the union’s “legacy remains, as Jewish workers dominate the advanced sectors of the economy and Arab workers constitute a low caste.”
But Arabs have been members of the Histadrut for decades. Ian Lustick, author of Arabs in the Jewish State: Israel’s Control of a National Minority, wrote:
In 1965 Arabs were permitted to participate actively in the elections to the Histadrut convention, and subsequently the official name of the Histadrut, which had been the General Federation of Jewish Workers in the Land of Israel was changed by omitting the word “Jewish.” In 1978 there were 130,000 Arab members of the Histadrut, or somewhat less than 10 percent of its total membership. (pg. 96)
The State Department’s 1992 human rights report for Israel likewise explains that “Histadrut also has a significant Israeli Arab membership. About 80 percent of the work force, including Israeli Arabs, are members of Histadrut trade unions ….”
• Ignatiev also declares that “The country operates what is essentially a segregated school system.”
Once more, the author implies racist intent and ignores the the broader context. What he terms a segregated system is one that respected jurist and politician Amnon Rubinstein explained was instituted in deference to the reality that Israeli Arabs want to educate their children in their own way. As Rubinstein writes (Azure, 2004),
[W]hen the state was founded, Israel acknowledged the collective rights of Arabs in the realm of education. Israeli Arabs thus have the right to educate their children in a separate framework, according to their own culture and language. This is undoubtedly an important achievement — in other countries, national minorities like the Kurds and the Macedonians are risking a great deal in their struggle to obtain the same right…
• Again showing his propensity to demonize the Jewish state by selectively relaying facts, Ignatiev describes a 1988 court case as follows:
In one representative case, a Jewish settler was convicted of shooting an Arab child. The judge sentenced him to a suspended jail term of six months plus community service. In response to critics, the judge declared, “It is wrong to demand in the name of equality, equal hearing and equal sentences to two offenders who have different nationalities who break the laws of the State. The sentence that deters the one and his audience, does not deter the other and his community.” (Adalah 1998, pp. 17-21)
Although Ignatiev makes it seem as if a settler intentionally shot an Arab and nonetheless served a half-year sentence, evincing the supposed racism of Israeli courts, an examination of the author’s own source — a document by the Arab rights organization Adalah — shows otherwise. In Adalah’s telling, the court, having found that the defendant “merely shot in the air” and rejected the argument that the defendant “aimed at the child and then shot him,” convicted the shooter of “causing the death” of the Arab child. In other words, Ignatiev hides what even the openly partisan Adalah understands is essential information.
More strikingly, Ignatiev conceals the fact that the light sentence was appealed by the (Israeli) attorney general and was overturned by a higher (Israeli) court. As Adalah notes:
Following the conviction and the sentence, both Ashgoyev and the Attorney General filed an appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court accepted the appeal of the Attorney General, vacated the sentence imposed by the District Court, and re-sentenced the defendant to three years imprisonment followed by a two year conditional discharge.
In other words, the actual lesson of the case Ignatiev cites, if only readers are given the opportunity to hear all the facts, might be that the Israeli government challenges sentences that appear to be too light, and that its courts overturn those sentences.
• A number of polls underscore that Israeli Arabs perceive their own over all circumstances far differently than does Ignatiev.
A 2008 poll conducted by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government found that 77 percent of Israeli Arabs would rather live in Israel than in any other country in the world.
A 2007 poll by A-Sinara, an Israeli Arab newspaper, was commissioned at a time when there were calls for the ceding of Arab population centers to a nascent Palestinian state. The poll showed 78 percent of Israeli Arabs did not want to be part of a Palestinian state and wanted to remain Israelis.
Ben Gurion and the Holocaust
• One of the particularly offensive canards long bandied about by so-called “post-Zionists” and anti-Zionist radicals is that Zionists collaborated with the Nazis to promote immigration to Palestine against overall Jewish interests and the survival of European Jews. Citing Lenni Brenner’s Zionism in the Age of the Dictators — which has been thoroughly discredited as an unscholarly combination of fabrication, exaggeration and quotations distorted through lack of context (Walter Laqueur, “The Anti-Zionism of Fools,” The New Republic, Nov. 1, 1987) — Ignatiev attempts to promote this disproved claim. He thus quotes Ben Gurion to support his allegation that the Israeli leader “attach[ed] more importance to the establishment of Israel than to the survival of the Jews,” collaborating with the Nazis to achieve this goal. The statement, as quoted by Ignatiev (via Brenner who, in turn, cites Yoav Gelber) is:
By cherry-picking a single comment, removing it from its context, and ignoring other comments made by Ben Gurion that directly contradict this interpretation, the author distorts history.
If I knew that it would be possible to save all the children in Germany by bringing them over to England, and only half by transporting to Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel], then I would opt for the second alternative. For we must weigh not only the life of these children, but also the history of the People of Israel.
The Ben Gurion quote is taken from comments he made to Mapai’s central committee on December 7, 1938. This followed Britain’s decision to deny entrance into Palestine of 10,000 German Jewish orphans in the wake of Kristallnacht, instead offering them asylum within Great Britain. It was almost a year before the Nazis launched World War II and several years before the Final Solution (to annihilate the Jews) was methodically implemented. While Ben Gurion believed that Germany’s anti-Jewish policies would necessitate creating a safe haven for numerous Jewish refugees that no other country was willing to accept, he had no way of predicting the enormity of what was to follow.
The British offer to accept several thousand children appeared to be a gesture of conscience allowing Britain to close the doors of Palestine — not only to those German orphans, but to future refugees as well. Ben Gurion had recently witnessed the results of the international Evian conference, which had been convened in July 1938 to address the growing Jewish refugee problem, and knew that other countries were also unwilling to accept hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees. He believed that only a Jewish homeland would be able to properly absorb these Jews. Thus Ben Gurion stated that “our concern is not only the personal interest of these children, but the historic interest of the Jewish people” (translation from the stenographic records by Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion and the Holocaust, Harcourt Brace & Co. 1996, p. 47).
According to the records of the Mapai meeting, Yitzchak Ben Zvi immediately clarified Ben Gurion’s brusque remark, explaining “ten thousand children are a small part of Germany’s [Jewish] children…They [the British] don’t intend to save Germany’s Jews, and certainly not all of them. The moment the Jewish State Plan [the Peel plan] was shelved, the possibility of complete rescue of Germany’s Jews was shelved with it.” (ibid. p. 48)
There is ample evidence — ignored by Ignatiev — that Ben Gurion viewed the rescue of Jews as paramount. As early as 1936, Ben Gurion told Palestine’s high commissioner, Sir Arthur Wauchope, that “had there been the possiblity of bringing Poland’s Jews to the United States or Argentina, we would have done so regardless of our Zionist beliefs. But the world was closed to us. And had there also not been room for us in Palestine, our people would have had only one way out: to commit suicide” (Ben Gurion, Memoirs, p.3:105, cited in Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion and the Holocaust, pp xlix, 110). And in November 1941, Ben Gurion argued that “the supremely important thing now is salvage, and nation-building is incidental” (Teveth, ibid. p.xlviii).
It was only in November 1942 that the Yishuv became aware of the systematic slaughter of Jews. The Zionist leadership established a rescue committee and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the rescue mission. Ben Gurion made his priorities clear at a September 1943 fund-raising meeting of the Mobilization and Rescue Appeal in Jerusalem where he hailed the Allies’ invasion of Europe for “first of all, and foremost, the saving of Jews, then the saving of the Yishuv, and finally and thirdly the saving of Zionism” (cited in Teveth, p. 143). He emphasized the importance of funding the rescue mission, saying:
We must do whatever is humanly possible…to extend material aid to those working on rescue operations in order to save [those who] can still be saved, to delay the calamity as far as it can be delayed. [And we must] do it immediately, to the best of our ability. I hesitate to say – since the matter is so serious – that we shall do our utmost; we are flesh and blood and cannot do the maximum, but we shall do what we can. (quoted in Friling, Tuvia, Arrows in the Dark, University of Wisconsin Press 2003)
Moshe Dayan Quote
The article repeatedly uses quotations by Israeli leaders in this dishonest manner. After asserting “the founding of Israel meant the destruction by the Zionists of nearly 400 Arab villages,” it relays the following excerpt of what it calls a “famous speech” by Moshe Dayan:
Jewish villages were built in place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahial arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kubbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kebar Yehusha in place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.
The passage is from an address Dayan gave to Technion students on March 19, 1969. A transcript of the speech appeared in Ha’aretz on April 4, 1969. In answer to a student’s question suggesting that Israel deport to Jordan Palestinian attackers from the West Bank, Dayan answers that he is vehemently opposed to this idea, insisting that Arabs have roots in the land just like Jews, and that the two peoples must learn to live together. He goes on to say:
We came to a region of land that was inhabited by Arabs, and we set up a Jewish state. In a considerable number of places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages. You don’t even know the names [of the previous Arab villages] and I don’t blame you, because those geography books aren’t around anymore. Not only the books, the villages aren’t around. Nahalal was established in the place of Mahalul, and Gvat was established in the place of Jibta, Sarid in the place of Huneifis and Kfar Yehoshua in the place of Tel Shaman. There isn’t any place that was established in an area where there had not at one time been an Arab settlement. (emphasis added)
The context of Dayan’s larger point, that the two peoples must learn to coexist, is of course ignored by Ignatiev, as it contradicts his picture of a Israel as a racist state. But the key is the sentence in bold above, which was omitted by Ignatiev and the dozens of other anti-Israel propaganda sites that made the quote “famous”: “In a considerable number of places, we purchased the land from Arabs and set up Jewish villages where there had once been Arab villages.” The land, which at one time had villages, was not overrun by marauding Zionists, as the truncated quote would have you believe, but was legally purchased.
Ariel Sharon Quote
Ignatiev yet again misrepresents with a cherry-picked and distorted quote when writes the following about Ariel Sharon:
Since the founding of the State of Israel, its defenders have had difficulty reconciling the reality of a Jewish state with a vision of democracy. Some have dealt with the matter by rejecting democracy as a goal for non-Jews. Among this number is Ariel Sharon, who became prime minister in 2001: Sharon stated. “Our grandparents did not come to build a democratic state. They came to build a Jewish state.”
There is much evidence, of course not relayed by the encyclopedia, that Sharon did not “reject democracy as a goal for non-Jews” — for example his vote in favor of the road map peace plan, which explicitly calls for “a democratic Palestinian state.”
And in 2002, Sharon said before the Knesset:
Israel is a pluralistic society with broad representation from the entire political spectrum, and the Knesset, to our pride, is perhaps the only place in which those who oppose it and those who love it, secular and religious, left and right, Jews, Druze, Bedouin and Arabs – all groups in the rich mosaic of rivalries and tensions – sit together to debate and discuss, occasionally, even if in strident tones, but always in the fervor of parliamentary dynamism and action. The Knesset is the pulsating heart of Israeli democracy.
In a similar vein, Sharon asserted in December 2004:
… I view the future State of Israel, a Jewish and democratic state with a solid Jewish majority, in which there is equality of rights and duties among all its citizens. … We hope that the Palestinians will succeed in holding free, democratic and quiet elections.
It is also worth noting a strikingly similar statement to that quoted by Ignatiev, which Ariel Sharon made in a 1993 Jerusalem Post column: “Our forefathers and parents did not come here to establish democracy; it’s a good thing true democracy was indeed created here, but they came here to create a Jewish State” (emphasis added; “Beyond democracy,” The Jerusalem Post, June 2, 1993). If this article is the source of Ignatiev’s quote, then he is guilty of flagrantly misquoting the piece.
Land Ownership in Palestine
After Britain announced its intention in 1947 to relinquish its control over Palestine, the United Nations voted to divide Palestine into Arab and Jewish states — awarding the Jewish state 54 percent of the territory, notwithstanding the fact that Jews owned no more than 7 percent of the land.
By citing only the percentage owned by Jews and not the Arabs, Ignatiev falsely implies that most of Palestine’s land was owned by Arab Palestinians. In fact, at least 65 percent of the land had no legal owner and was designated as state property. The encylopedia also published a deceptive map that lumps together Palestinian- and publicly-owned land to contrast with the Jewish-owned land, which it tellingly reprinted from thevirulently anti-Israel “Palestine Remembered” Web site.
Ignatiev incorrectly claims that “[a]ll traffic and commerce into and out of Gaza are controlled by Israel.”