Johann Hari Revises Palestinian History

This is a guest post by Matt of TheBrothersofJudea, a blog that tracks antisemitism at the Huffington Post
Johann Hari, a Huffington Post blogger who writes about a plethora of topics, makes his debut into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict with his latest blog post “Enough, the Palestinians Should Now Declare Independence“. Hari has an obvious solution to this conflict that everybody else looking at and writing about the conflict has missed, a unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. But before he gets to that, he has to revise some history to make the Palestinians look as good as possible and to make the Huff Post commentators feel secure in supporting them. He starts with the origin of the conflict:

“Their story is so rarely explained without disinformation that it still seems startling when it is stated plainly. Until 1948, the Palestinians were living in their own homes, on their own land — until they were suddenly driven out in a war to make way for a new state for people fleeing a monstrous European genocide. They lived huddled and dazed in the 20 percent of their land they were allowed to keep. They hardly fought back: they wept and dreamed of return. Then in the 1967 war, even these small strips were conquered with tanks and platoons.”

The irony is that Hari claims the Palestinian story isn’t ever explained without “disinformation” and then proceeds to leave out vital facts and context in his “Palestinians as victims” history. The Arabs were living, in 1947, on land owned by Turkish landlords when they felt threatened by Jewish nationalism (a.k.a. Zionism) and launched a war of aggression on the Jews. The Jews and Arabs had been fighting in the region pretty much constantly since before World War II, and incidents like the Hebron Massacre, the Hadassah medical convoy attack, and the massacre at Kfar Etzion were all forgotten or intentionally left out by Mr. Hari. We can only assume they are not included because they violate the narrative he is presenting of innocent Palestinians driven off their land by Europeans. The fact that the Gaza Strip and West Bank, land roughly equivalent in terms of size to the arable land of Israel (not counting the Negev desert) is described in the post as “small strips” goes beyond rhetoric and into the realm of falsehood.
Mr. Hari continues on with his “truthful” account of the “Palestinian story”.

“They watched while Israeli Prime Ministers said they didn’t exist — “there are no Palestinians”, announced Golda Meir — or described them as animals: Menachem Begin called them “beasts walking on two legs”, while Yitzhak Shamir said they should be “crushed like grasshoppers… heads smashed against the boulders and walls.” They tried peacefully resisting, launching a program of sit-downs and civil disobedience. Yitzhak Rabin responded by ordering the occupying Israeli army to “break their bones.” After decades of this treatment, they fought back with violence — some of it targeted horribly and unacceptably at Israeli civilians.”

Once again, we see the context-less account of the mean things Israeli leaders have said (but not, of course, the far worse things Arab leaders have said and continue to say today). After the violent attacks I linked to above, it is very surprising to see that Hari claims only after “decades” of cruelty at the hands of the Israelis do the Palestinians start fighting back. Is Mr. Hari unaware that the PLO was founded in 1964 (three years before the occupation began)? Is he unaware of the civil war fought in mandatory Palestine, fought between Palestinian Arabs and Palestinian Jews? Or is he preferring to leave all of those inconvenient truths out in favor of an idealized, Gandhi-like Palestinian people, who never hurt a fly until they were driven to violence by the inhuman Israelis?
There are numerous other accounts of revisionist history in this article that I could highlight (such as Palestinian acceptance of a two-state solution on ’67 borders) but before we get to the comments I want to showcase the cognitive dissonance of Hari’s final point:

“There is very little the Palestinians can do to change their situation alone. They are virtually disarmed, with a few rockets and some stone-throwing kids, against the fourth most powerful army on earth. “

Indeed, the Palestinians have little chance of changing their situation militarily (although they have a little bit more than a few rockets and some stone throwers). But they have the great capability of changing their situation through diplomacy, and they always have. But in Mr. Hari’s borderline racist view of the Palestinians they are just two-dimensional victims. Bad things happen to them, good things happen to them, it’s up to us to help them because they can’t help themselves. They aren’t capable of controlling their own destiny and taking responsibility for the consequences of their actions, and we should not expect them to.
Naturally, the comments on the article expresses their support.

Thank you, Johann, for this excellent and accurate view of what it means to be Palestinian in your own land. It should be required reading by our all of our elected representatives, who, through the subversion and influence of defacto agents of a foreign power (AIPAC), seem to be more representatives of Israel, and Israeli goals, rather than the US, and our national interests. The acts of the Israeli extremists to control the dialogue and the US press has colored generations of American belief on who is the “victim” and who the oppressor in this “conflict”. You will be no doubt be attacked for your honesty and truthful depiction of the Occupation and illegal colonization of Occupied Palestine, and the subjugation and displacement (ethnic cleansing) of the indigenous inhabitants by “religious” extremists; you are in good company.
I would only add that US aid (or tribute) to Israel is far higher than the $3 billion annually (closer to $10 B) you mention when all hidden “aid” , “loans” and other are counted. Our US aid to Israel makes the Occupation and settlements possible, as it did the Israeli attacks on Gaza and Lebanon, as well as much more we should be ashamed of, and we are complicit to Israeli crimes as a result.

Right, Israel or Israeli interests control the US government, the “dialogue” and the US media. And of course, this user believes Hari’s revisionist history without question.

Another user, who has claimed to be Jewish in the past, has a different solution.

There was no rational reason why Palestinians or any other Arabs should have accepted the partition of an Arab country. It was an outrage that the colonial powers of Europe, aided by the U.S., imposed on the Middle East. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. Israel would be well adviced to get out of what remains of historical Palestine and leave the Palestinians in peace. It is a better deal than Israel deserves.

Overall, though, the comments weren’t too bad, agreeing in general with Hari’s litany of falsehoods and half-truths. Just another day on the Huffington Post.

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