Steven A. Leibo Is the Sage Professor of International History & Politics
Sometimes I wish I spent my professional life teaching people about Tajikistan. Sure most Americans have never heard of it. But, at least I could skip past all the myths, lies and confusion that usually pervades my efforts to explain the Arab Israeli struggle. An issue especially on my mind since someone a few days ago asked me if Leon Uris’s novel Exodus would be a good learning source for the topic.
My first thought –are you kidding? Leon Uris, the author, who knew almost nothing of the true story of the founding of Israel! The author of a book Israel’s founding father David Ben Gurion claimed was neither good literature nor history but a fine piece of Zionist propaganda!
And Exodus, was hardly the only work of distortion that swirls around the topic. How can one forget for example that infamous canard, that there were are no Palestinians, the otherwise impressive Israeli leader, Golda Meir, once hurtfully claimed.
And the phony myths, confusion and distortions that continue today, working overtime to delegitimate both peoples. By for example confusing the largely European Jewish roots of the nineteenth century Zionist movement with the actual Jewish population of Israel today, with its mixture of Jews who families never left Palestine, Jews who never left the Middle East and Africa and the often more familiar Western Jews.
Or that silly myth that claims that while Jews might have lived in Palestine in biblical times; they were driven out by the early Roman emperors. A bit of historical ignorance that would have surprised the late 4th century Roman Emperor Julian who so favored the Palestinian Jews that he encouraged them to rebuilt the sacred temple his predecessors had destroyed.
A bit of historical myopia that would have surprised the 11th century European crusaders who thought enough of Jerusalem’s Jews to take time out from their busy schedule killing Muslims to burn the local Jews alive. Or more recently those Palestinian Jews, Mark Twain watched praying at the Wailing Wall in the years after the American Civil War.
But such distortions are hardly locked in the past. No, they continue even this week as yet another flotilla sets off from Europe hoping to break the blockade of Gaza; sailing with their own cargo of counterproductive myths. Like the claim that Israel alone has been blockading Gaza when anyone with a map knows that Egypt too, just as nervous about the radicalism of Hamas long sealed Gaza’s back door
A myth made even more absurd as the new Post Mubarak Egyptian government had already made the decision to end Gaza’s isolation long before this year’s flotilla even began taking on its boatloads of earnest passenger witnesses.
Or that other astonishing myth that surrounds last year’s so called peace flotilla. You know, the one that the supposedly evil Israelis boarded while killing nine of non violent passengers. I mean let’s get real, even Al Jazeera, which as far as this commentator knows has not yet signed up as a Zionist apologist has been running video of the violent attacks that met the Israeli soldiers who boarded the ships last year.
Gandhi would have been embarrassed
But let’s be clear about one thing, trying to stop the blockade of Gaza is not in itself a bad idea. The economy of Gaza is a disaster and that’s especially bad because only a healthy Palestinian economy can make peace with Israel. So ending the blockade is a good idea.
After all the blockade that has strangled Gaza for so long has been a counter productive as Egyptian Authorities have come to understand. And as so many Israelis have finally realized. As for example just this last month when the departing head of Israel’s famous security organization, the Mossad, denounced Israeli leader Netanyahu for undermining Israeli’s security with his uncompromising attitudes, his unwillingness to find his way to the only resolution possible, a two state solution both nations can live with, a resolution that will never come about until both sides drop their distorting myths, ancient and modern that hold back a true peace of reconciliation