The Pilgrim Press, the publishing house of the United Church of Christ, has a real problem. The publishing house, which has recently gone through a reorganization resulting in layoffs, has invested staff time and money into producing a second edition of Gary Burge’s error-laden text, Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians.
Now that the book is back from the printer it is becoming increasingly evident that there are a significant number of defaming inaccuracies in the text – inaccuracies from which Pilgrim Press will profit as it continues to sell the text.
The first edition of the book, which was published in 2003, generated controversy largely because much of what Burge wrote about Israel simply wasn’t true. The book went through several printings without making any corrections to the text. When CAMERA chided Pilgrim Press for profiting from the error-laden text, Burge contacted the organization and stated a new and revised edition was forthcoming in which the “errors” would be corrected. (Quotation marks are Burge’s.)
Ann Poston, Director of Communications at the United Church of Christ, (and publisher at Pilgrim Press), responded to CAMERA’s concerns with an invitation for the organization to produce a response to Burge’s text that would be distributed with the text on a double sided 6-inch by 9-inch sheet.
Here is what she wrote in an email on Dec. 19, 2013: “I’d be happy to include a one page 6×9 (double-sided) commentary from you that we will include in book purchases, if you’d like. Just let me know. Thanks.”
Poston made this offer after reviewing the back-and-forth correspondence between CAMERA and Rev. Dr. Burge. (Initially, CAMERA sent its emails about the book to an editorial director at Pilgrim Press who had just been laid off as part of a “reorganization” at the publishing house. When contacted directly by CAMERA, Poston logged onto the former editorial director’s email account at Pilgrim Press, saw the correspondence, and made the offer, which the organization accepted immediately.)
On January 8, 2014, CAMERA called Poston to inquire about the layout of the insert. A staffer at Pilgrim Press stated that it would be better to communicate with Poston via email. CAMERA then sent an email to Poston asking what size margins should be used in the insert but got no answer.
Then on January 9, 2013, CAMERA discovered an error in Burge’s text that was so egregious (described below) it felt compelled to contact Pilgrim Press immediately with another email sent to Poston.
After sending this email, CAMERA received a phone call from Poston who after apologizing for not responding sooner, said that she had made the offer to CAMERA prematurely – before checking out the processes at Pilgrim Press. (Poston apparently has assumed new duties at Pilgrim Press as a result of the reorganization mentioned above.)
After making the offer to CAMERA, Poston learned, in conversations with staffers at Pilgrim Press, that including an insert along with the text would require the author’s permission, she stated.
“I’m pretty confident Gary won’t give that permission,” she said, apologizing for having “misspoke” when she made the offer.
In short, the offer was rescinded.
In ensuing discussion, Poston stated that if Pilgrim Press were to include an insert without the permission of the author, it would be breaking its contract with the author, who holds the copyright to the text. When CAMERA asked if Pilgrim Press could produce an errata sheet of its own, Poston stated that any corrections will have to wait until the next printing of the text which will not take place until all remaining copies of the first edition and the first printing of the second edition are sold.
As far as an errata sheet is concerned, the onus is on the author to make any corrections, Poston said. “I don’t have that authority as the publisher,” she said.
During the conversation, Poston stated that both the first and second editions of the text published at Pilgrim Press when other personnel were in charge at the publishing house.
Egregious Error – Herzl Quote
It is unfortunate that Poston has withdrawn her invitation for CAMERA to create an insert to accompany Burge’s book, but the fact that the offer was made in the first place indicates that she lacks confidence in the text that her predecessors have produced.
She has good reason to lack confidence in the text. In the course of preparing the insert, CAMERA documented a number of other errors that have not previously been brought to light.
One of the most egregious errors (mentioned above) appears on page 148, Burge quotes Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion who, prior to Israel’s creation stated “When we say ‘Jewish independence’ or ‘a Jewish state,’ we mean Jewish country, Jewish soil, we mean Jewish labor, we mean Jewish economy, Jewish agriculture, Jewish industry, Jewish sea.”
Burge then writes:
This comment reflects the spirit of the earliest Zionists like Theodor Herzl, who believed that the removal of Arabs bodily from Palestine was part of the Zionist plan to “to spirit the penniless population across the frontier.”
Burge then includes the following footnote:
The Diaries of Theodor Herzl, ed. M. Lowenthan (New York: Dial Press, 1956), 188. (June 12, 1895, entry.) He went onto say that this “process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Noted historian Efraim Karsh writes that the paragraph in Herzl’s diaries quoted above has “been a feature of Palestinian propaganda for decades.” Karsh dealt with the passage in question in a 2005 article abou
t the work of historian Benny Morris.
Below is the full text of the entry where this quote appears, (obtained from a text other than the one Burge cited), The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, Raphael Patai, editor, Harry Zohn Translator, Vol. 1 (New York: Thomas Yoseloff), 88.
When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us.We must expropriate gentlythe private property on the estates assigned to us.We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our country.The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.Let the owners of immovable property believe they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth.But we are not going to sell them anything back.
In a subsequent entry, also dated June 12, 1895, Herzl writes:
It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honor, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire world a wonderful example.
None of the multiple entries for June 12, 1891 mention removing “Arabs bodily from Palestine” (Burge’s words), because at the time Herzl wrote entry, Karsh reports, he regarded South America, not Palestine, as the potential home for the Jewish people.
Here, the evidence is overwhelming.
On June 9, 1895 Herzl wrote: “In Palestine’s disfavor is its proximity to Russia and Europe, its lack of room for expansion as well as its climate, which we are no longer accustomed to. In its favor is the mighty legend.”
On June 11, 1895 Herzl wrote: “Should we go to South America, which would have a lot in its favor on account of its distance from militarized and seedy Europe, our first state treaties will have to be with South American republics.”
Later in this entry he writes: “If we are in South America, the establishment of our State will not come to Europe’s notice for a considerable period of time.” He continues: “In South America we could at first live according to the laws, extradition treaties, etc, of the receiving state (vis-Ã -vis Europe).”
On June 12, Herzl wrote: “Those South American republics must be obtainable for money. We can give them annual subsidies. But only for about twenty years, i.e., until we are strong enough to protect ourselves; otherwise this would become a tribute which would be incompatible with our future dignity and the stoppage of which could lead to war.”
Later that same day, Herzl described how the land would be obtained from its current owners:
Estate owners who are attached to their soil because of old age, habit, etc., will be offered a complete transplantation—to any place they wish, like our own people. This offer will be made only when all others have been rejected. …. Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas, we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us.”
In another entry also dated on June 12, Herzl wrote: “Discreet, delicate investigations should first be carried on regarding the financial needs, the internal political situation, and currents in these South American republics. On the whole, it will be a voluntary parting with the land.” (Note: The last of these entries – about South America – were written the same day as the quote that Burge included in his text.)
And in a letter to the Rothschild family, dated June 13, 1895, that details Herzl’s diplomatic steps that would lead to the creation of a Jewish state, he writes that he “shall take Argentina as an example.” He continues:
For a time I had Palestine in mind. This would have in its favor the facts that it is the unforgotten ancestral seat of our people, that its very name would attract the lower masses. But most Jews are no longer Orientals and have become accustomed to very different regions; also it would be hard to carry out there my system of transportation, which would follow later. Then, too, Europe would still be too close to it, and in the first quarter-century of our existence we shall have to have peace from Europe and its martial and social entanglements, if we are to prosper.But on principle I am neither against Palestine nor for Argentina. We merely have to have a varied climate for the Jews who are used to colder or to warmer regions.
Later in the same letter, Hertzl writes: “I am assuming that we shall go to Argentina. In that case we shall negotiate with the South American republics.” He then expresses his hope that through Jewish investment “an unprecedented commercial prosperity will come to South America.”
What Burge has done is take the Herzl quote out of context. And he has done it in two ways.
First, he’s taken something Herzl wrote about Jewish plans to settle in South America and applied them to Palestine. This is an egregious distortion on Burge’s part. It distorts history by omitting information that reveals just how desperate Herzl and was to find a place where Jews could live in safety and dignity – desperate enough to encourage Jews to make their new home outside the Land of Israel.
And secondly, Burge omitted any reference to Herzl’s intentions that people be given economic incentives to leave where they are living and his stipulation that people who do not wish to leave the areas of Jewish settlement be allowed to remain. He also describes his hope that the creation of a Jewish state will promote the economic development of its neighbors in South America.
Quote Not in Source Cited by Burge
ote from Herzl’s diaries does not appear in the text that Burge cites (Lowenthan’s abbreviated version of Herzl’s diaries). Contrary to what Burge reports, page 188 of this text does not include the quote in question. The text on this page is an entry from 1896 describing a discussion Herzl had with Edmond de Rothschild. This book does include some entries from June 12, 1895 (on pages 44 and 45), but none of these entries include the quote in question. This index to this text has no reference to Argentina or South America.
This is not the first time a Rev. Dr. Burge has attributed a damning quote from a Jewish leader to a source that does not include it. He did it in the first edition when he falsely attributed a damning quote to David Ben-Gurion. Not only was the quote (which has appeared in a number of sources) fake, it did not appear in the text Burge cited as a source. On page39 of the first edition of Whose Land? Whose Promise? Burge wrote “David Ben-Gurion,Israel’s first prime minister was specific about his strategy. In a letter to his son in 1937 he wrote, ‘We will expel the Arabs and take their place.’”
Rev. Dr. Burge states this quote appears on page 22 of The Arab-Israeli Conflict, a primer for high school students on the conflict published by Cambridge University Press and written by Ton McAleavy. The quote falsely attributed to Ben-Gurion’s does not appear on page 22, or anywhere else in that book.
There are other problems with the text that have not been previously highlighted by CAMERA. For example, on page 43, Burge describes the events of the Six Day War as follows:
Anticipating an attack, on June 5, 1967, Israel struck first by launching an air strike in the early morning and virtually wiped out the Egyptian air force on the ground. By nightfall, Israel had destroyed 416 Arab planes. Within two days (June 7), Israel occupied all of East Jerusalem—meaning for the first time since the days of the Roman Empire, Jews now occupied Jerusalem in its entirety. Within a week (June10), the war was over. With lightning speed and superior organization, Israel had defeated an overwhelming Arab army and succeeded in taking the Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank (to the Jordan River, and the Golan Heights.”
In this paragraph, Burge omits a crucial fact: Israel was attacked first by Jordan and Syria before taking possession of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. (Israel’s pre-emptive strike was launched solely on Egypt, not Jordan and Syria.)
And on page 58, Burge reports that visitors to Israel will see a security barrier “surrounding a city like Bethlehem.” As this B’Tselem map reveals, the security barrier does not surround Bethlehem but separates it from Jerusalem.
And on page 70, Burge omits altogether the violent aspects of the 2010 “Free Gaza” flotilla that attempted to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza. He describes the flotilla as follows: “Ships with 700 international activists. The Israeli Navy intercepts, 16 killed.”
Turkish Passengers on board the Mavi Mamara, (where a total of nine – not 16 – deaths occurred), attacked Israeli soldiers as soon as they landed on the vessel. Israeli soldiers, who were equipped with paintball guns, were beaten with iron bars, had their side arms stolen, and were stabbed with knives. (Videos documenting these activities can be seen here.)
Prior to the flotilla some of the passengers chanted “Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” (“Khaibar” is a reference to a 7th century battle that resulted in the extirpation of Jews from the Arabian Peninsula.) (See Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Gaza flotilla participants created war atmosphere before confronting Israel: Participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking killing of Jews and called for Martyrdom,” Palestinian Media Watch, May 31, 2010.)
The people who engaged in these actions are combatants, not “activists” as Burge described them.
On page 157, the author’s description of the July 13, 1948 expulsion of the inhabitants of Lydda omits another crucial fact: The expulsion was a self-defense move that took place after militia in Lydda violated the terms of a surrender that had been negotiated between the IDF and the city’s leaders on July 11, 1948. The militia attacked and mutilated the bodies of five Israeli guards, prompting another round of fighting, after which the inhabitants were expelled from the city. (For more information please see Alon Kadish and Avraham Sela, “Myths and Historiography of the 1948 Palestine War Revisited: The Case of Lydda,” Middle East Journal, Vol. 59, No. 4 (Autumn, 2005), pp. 617-634.)
Ugly Trope With No Basis in Fact
On page 216, Burge traffics relays and ugly trope provided to him by Palestinian Christians. He reports that Palestinian Christians “claim that they are reliving for the first time in history the conditions of the first century church, in which a Christian minority is suffering under the rule of a Jewish majority.” The facts simply do not bear this out.
In the West Bank, Palestinian Christians live under the Palestinian Authority, which controls their civil government. Moreover, Israel is the one country in the Middle East where the indigenous population of Christians has increased in the last several decades.
The Statistical Abstract of Israel reports that in 1949, there were approximately34,000Christians living in Israel. The vast majority of these people were Arab Christians. At the end of 2011, there were approximately,125,000Arab Christians living in Israel. This is a 268 percent increase. For more information, go here.
Despite the fact that this is the second article CAMERA has produced about the new and revised version of Burge’s text, we have not yet come to the end of the problems in this book. There are still more errors and omissions that CAMERA will highlight in the days and weeks ahead, as time allows.
The errors that have been highlighted so far underscore two troubling realities: First, Pilgrim Press is still profiting from a text that is filled with a number of inaccu
racies that demonize the Jewish state. (It’s hard to imagine that Ann Poston would have made the offer she did if this were not the case.)
Second, Wheaton College in Illinois has a professor on its faculty who has abused the trust of his readers in a pretty big way.