Jewish “terrorists” vs Arab “fighters”: An open letter to the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor

The following is a letter written by a CiF Watch reader named David Shayne, and originally submitted to the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor in response to his report entitled ‘British officials predicted war – and Arab defeat – in Palestine in 1948‘.

Dear Mr. Norton Taylor,

I read your article with great interest, but I must say I was rather appalled to read your following claim:  

The documents, which have a remarkable contemporary resonance, reveal how British officials looked on as Jewish settlers took over more and more Arab land.”

This statement is extremely misleading, evoking an image that  Jewish government or other entity was forcing Arabs off their lands in large numbers.  This picture is false.

It is well documented that, during the British Mandate, Jews in fact acquired very little settled Arab land.  All Jewish land acquisitions were commercial, land purchased from willing sellers (and often at exorbitant prices).   The Jews, being politically powerless, had no means to compel Arabs to sell their lands.  Moreover, a vast majority of these purchases involved unused lands in sparsely settled areas, e.g. the Jezreel and Hefer valleys, swampy areas that the Arabs tended to avoid.  The Jews, in turn, avoided moving into heavily populated areas.  That is why to this day Arab and Jewish population concentrations are in different parts of the country (e.g, the West Bank and the Coastal plain).  

There are many books that describe these issues, a particularly good one is “From Time Immemorial” by Joan Peters.

Even today, when there is a Jewish government which can and does exercise its power regarding the controversial settlements policy in the West Bank, most of these were likewise built on uninhabited stretches of land.  Generally, Arabs were not expelled in order to create these towns.

Another severely erroneous statement in your article was this:

In the weeks leading up to the partition of Palestine in 1948, when Britain gave up its UN mandate, Jewish terrorist groups were mounting increasing attacks on UK forces and Arab fighters, the Colonial Office papers show.”

It is not clear what time period is meant here.  If the reference is prior to November 29, 1947 (the UN Partition Plan vote) then it is true that some Jews did engage in “terrorism” and Jewish forces did attack British forces (which the British always called “terrorism” even the targets were legitimate military targets and no British soldiers were killed).  But there was also plenty of Arab terrorism, meaning the random murder of unarmed Jews and Britons that had occurred during the same time.  The British, too, engaged in “terrorism” of their own from time to time (see the book “Major Farran’s Hat“). Singling Jews out as “terrorists” is grossly misleading.

If the reference is to the period between November 29, 1947 and May 15, 1948, then the statement is a flat-out lie.  Arab forces attacked Jews all across Palestine the very next day after the UN vote.  Dozens of Jews were killed immediately, the Jews tried to organize to defend themselves.  Since the British were leaving, and the Jews had their hands full just protecting themselves from the Arabs, all anti-British operations ceased.  I am not aware of a single significant incident of Jews attacking Britons during this time period.

The British, on the other hand, continued to severely oppress the Jews and prevent them from acquiring the necessary arms to defend themselves.  Moreover, many Britons openly aligned themselves with Arabs and some participated in anti-Jewish terror (e.g, the February, 1948 bombing of Ben Yehudah Street in Jerusalem).

The very characterization of Jews as “terrorists” and the Arabs as “fighters” when it was Arab terrorist violence that launched the 1947-48 war to start with reveals a deep prejudice that belies any semblance of objective reporting.

Thank you for your attention. I look forward to your response.

David Shayne

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