The Guardian’s Alison Flood begins her July 25th review of a new science fiction book by Palestinian writers imagining “what their country might look like in 2048” with a historical inaccuracy of her own:
Twelve acclaimed Palestinian writers have imagined what their country might look like in 2048, 100 years after the Nakba saw more than 700,000 people expelled from their homes, in what is believed to be the first ever collection of science fiction from the occupied territories.
As we noted to Flood – who appears to have copied and pasted that stat from the book’s website – in a tweet, and to editors in a complaint, there are no serious historians who claim that all 700,000 Palestinians were “expelled” during the 1948 war. Historian Benny Morris has demonstrated that the overwhelming majority fled due to the war, which, let’s remember, was an Arab war of annihilation against the nascent Jewish state, not because of an expulsion order. In fact, the Guardian itself almost always is careful with their language about this issue, merely claiming that “some were expelled and some fled”.
In the piece, Flood also quotes Basma Ghalayini, the editor of the collection, in her introduction describing what she terms Israel’s “totalitarian” occupation of the West Bank, an extraordinarily misleading framing given that most West Bank Palestinians are ruled (militarily and administratively) by the Palestinian Authority (PA), and that it is Ramallah – not Jerusalem – which routinely exercises authoritarian control over its Palestinian population.
Later, she quotes Ghalayini insinuating that Zionism is racist, when she writes “Everything in that area that was former Palestine is determined by how Jewish you’re considered to be”, a claim undermined by the fact that 25% of Israel’s citizens are not Jewish, yet enjoy equal rights under the law.
Finally, Flood uncritically quotes Ghalayini repeating a popular Guardian and Corbyn Left narrative in asserting that this volume of essays are important because “Palestinians who voice any opinion about the situation are [often] interpreted as being antisemitic, [which] makes people very nervous to write about their situation”. However, as anyone following the antisemitism crisis within the Labour Party would understand, this is a canard, as antisemitism accusations regarding the Palestinian issue are only leveled when the conversations include antisemitic tropes per the IHRA Working Definition. Ghalayini’s broader suggestion that there’s a dearth of public conversations about ‘Palestine’ is the exact opposite of the truth, as the issue is discussed in the British media and in Parliament (not to mention at the UN) to a degree that’s far disproportionate compared to more deadly conflicts. The idea that Palestinian and pro-Palestinian voices are being ‘silenced’ is absurd.
The Guardian review further quotes Ghalayini offering her view that “Palestine is such a rich canvas for science fiction, all these themes we deal with as Palestinians … questions of the past and the present and ideas of memories and alternative realities, what might have been.” Yes, ‘what might have been’….if only their leaders had, from the start, sought compromise, peace and co-existence, whilst rejecting scapegoating, hatred, and violence.
But, Flood’s review suggests there’s little such self-criticism or reflection on display from these Palestinian writers – no evidence of stories in the anthology premised on the view that Palestinians are masters their own fate, that the future is not pre-ordained and that good Palestinian decisions in 2019 will likely result in better outcomes in 2048.