Friday, May 21, 2010

Efraim Karsh's "Palestine Betrayed" is an answer to the "New Historians'" view of Israel during the War of Independence. In it, Karsh makes a strong argument that the vast majority of the tragedy of the "naqba" was because of Arab, not Jewish, actions.

Karsh makes a startlingly effective case for the fact that the mainstream Zionist leadership wanted to live with their Arab cousins in peace. He brings quote after quote, from Herzl  to Jabotinsky to Ben Gurion, that shows that the plan of ethnic cleansing that we are told so incessantly about by Arabs today is simply a fiction. He goes into some detail about Arab-Jewish cooperation immediately after the Balfour Declaration - and before the Mufti.

Much of the blame for the severe deterioration on the relationship between the communities goes directly to Hajj Amin Husseini, who almost single-handedly led the Palestinian Arabs to disaster - as Mufti of Jerusalem, as president of the Supreme Muslim Council, and as president of the Arab Higher Committee. His unwavering anti-semitism combined with his positions of power and his ability to outmaneuver his rivals created an atmosphere where compromise was unthinkable. Karsh also shows that Husseini, far from being a nationalist, was always more interested in a pan-Arab nation - first as part of Greater Syria, but even later he viewed the Arab Palestine as being a stepping-stone to pan-Arab unification. Karsh follows his career from Jerusalem to becoming a Nazi sympathizer.

The centerpiece of the book is the description of the fighting and Arab flight during the first part of the War of Independence. Karsh puts forth a strong argument that the vast majority of Arabs fled their homes as a result of fear, and often in spite of Jewish entreaties to stay put. He goes into detail of the flight of Arabs from Haifa and Jaffa, into the complete breakdown of Arab leadership and the almost non-existence of a unified Arab front, neither within Palestine nor without.(A fascinating detail from Haifa: the Arab flight occurred during Passover, and the rabbinate of Haifa gave a special dispensation for Jewish bakers to bake bread for Arabs during that time to help them out as their infrastructure evaporated.)

According to Karsh, the only expulsion that Israeli forces did to a major urban Arab area was for Lydda, where the Haganah feared that a potential rear-guard fighting force could jeopardize their forces' advances. He does mention a few smaller villages that were depopulated by the Jewish forces, and he gives the military justification for some.

In fact, Karsh provides an appendix listing how many Arabs fled every town and village, roughly 600,000 refugees in total, somewhat less than the UN and Arab claims at the time, which Karsh shows were often inflated.

Karsh also shows pretty clearly that even if the Arabs had won the war, there would be no Palestine today, as Egypt, Transjordan and Syria planned to carve up whatever they could capture. King Abdullah of Transjordan was willing to allow an autonomous but tiny Jewish presence to remain around Haifa.

While Karsh delves into the details of the first phases of the Arab exodus, until roughly June 1948, he all but ignores the next stages that went on until November. This seems to be a shortcoming, as Benny Morris does go into those in detail. Yet even while Morris acknowledges that while there were what he terms atrocities, they were the exception and that most Arab flight occurred from panic even in the latter stages of the fighting.  It is just that the detail he gives is so numbing that it appears that the unsavory acts were far more common than they were in reality.

Another seeming shortcoming of Karsh's book is that he seems to downplay the role of the Irgun and the Stern Gang. While his argument of the conciliatory nature of the Haganah leadership seems well grounded, it appears that Karsh is embarrassed about the undeniably terrorist acts of the Irgun, at times justifying them as reprisals and other times minimizing their importance. However, it seems to me that this needs to be dealt with more forthrightly - both in terms of denouncing their terror as well as in the fact that their acts precipitated much of the Arab flight (and, arguably, the British decision to quit Palestine.) War is never 100% clean.

Karsh's epilogue draws a direct line from Husseini to Arafat and beyond, showing that Arab intransigence has not changed much although it has been packaged differently.

A truly dispassionate history of the conflict is probably impossible to write. Karsh's biases are no less obvious than Segev's or (early) Morris', but they are a necessary counterpoint to the prevailing conventional wisdom. Karsh's arguments are well done and well notated, and he unearths a large number of previously unknown primary sources, especially from British archives. The same events can be used to draw different conclusions, and it is ultimately up to the reader to determine whether the author succeeded in buttressing his point of view with solid facts. For the most part, Karsh succeeds.

The Zionist narrative is at least as valid as that of the revisionists (and far more than that of the Arabs) and it needs to be regarded as such. As such, Karsh's book is invaluable.

EoZ Book:"Protocols: Exposing Modern Antisemitism"


EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

search eoz





For $18 donation

Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts in recent years


Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 14 years and 30,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options

One time donation:

subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!

Interesting Blogs


#PayForSlay Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria Alice Walker American Jews AmericanZionism Amnesty Amnesty 2022 analysis anti-semitism anti-Zionism antisemitism apartheid Arab antisemitism arab refugees Arafat archaeology Ari Fuld art Ashrawi ASHREI B'tselem bahrain Balfour bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz Bernie Sanders Biden history Birthright book review Brant Rosen breaking the silence CAIR Campus antisemitism Cardozo cartoon of the day CEDAW Chakindas Chanukah Christians circumcision CJ Werleman Clark Kent coexistence Comix Community Standards conspiracy theories COVID-19 Cyprus Daled Amos Daphne Anson David Applebaum Davis report DCI-P Divest This double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada Ellen Horowitz Embassy EoZ Trump symposium eoz-symposium EoZNews eoztv Erekat Erekat lung transplant EU Euro-Mid Observer European antisemitism Facebook Facebook jail Fake Civilians 2014 Fake Civilians 2019 Farrakhan Fatah featured Features Fervent Embrace fisking flood libel flotilla Forest Rain Forward free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros German Jewry Ghassan Daghlas gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian guest post gunness Haaretz Hadassah hamas Hamas war crimes Hananya Naftali hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hasby 2018 hate speech Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor Hypocrisy ICRC IDF IfNotNow IJ Benjamin Ilan Pappe Ilhan Omar impossible peace incitement indigenous Indonesia infographic international law interview intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya James Zogby jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter Joe Biden John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Joseph Massad Juan Cole Judaism Judea-Samaria Judean Rose Judith Butler Kairos Karl Vick Keith Ellison ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Know How to Answer Lebanon leftists Linda Sarsour Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Mairav Zonszein Malaysia Marc Lamont Hill Marjorie Taylor Greene max blumenthal Mazen Adi McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Michael Lynk Michael Ross Miftah Missionaries moderate Islam Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco Mudar Zahran music Muslim Brotherhood Naftali Bennett Nakba Nan Greer Nasser al-Lahham Nation of Islam Natural gas Nazi Netanyahu News nftp NGO Nick Cannon NIF Noah Phillips norpac NSU Matrix NYT Occupation offbeat olive oil Omar Barghouti Omri Boehm Only in Israel Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peace Now Peter Beinart Petra MB philosophy poetry Poland poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist Puar Purim purimshpiel Putin Qaradawi Qassam calendar Quora Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals RealJerusalemStreets reference Reuters Richard Falk Richard Landes Richard Silverstein Right of return Rivkah Lambert Adler Robert Werdine rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Rutgers Saeb Erekat Sarah Schulman Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians Seth Rogen settlements sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shelly Yachimovich Shujaiyeh Simchat Torah Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Sovereignty Speech stamps Superman Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman Tlaib TOI Tomer Ilan Trump Trump Lame Duck Test Tunisia Turkey UAE Accord UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc UNICEF United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA unwra vaccination Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks Winstanley work accident X-washing Y. Ben-David Yemen YMikarov zahran Ziesel zionist attack zoo Zionophobia Ziophobia Zvi

Best posts of the past 6 months


A new, better definition of antisemitism

Blog Archive