The truly execrable Los Angeles Times is at it again. Contributor Barry Rubin responds to a recent editorial.
By Barry Rubin
History is continually being revised. Although written first by the victors, over time the voices of the defeated and disregarded demand inclusion. China and Korea insist that Japan acknowledge wartime atrocities; Native Americans, that their 4,000-year history become a part of this country’s founding narrative; and women, that their deeds get equal scrutiny with those of men.
Whether most Palestinians fled their homes voluntarily or through coercion and force, and whether they have a right to return, will likely be argued until the end of time. But that thousands did flee and have spent subsequent decades living in refugee camps — the United Nations says that descendants have swelled the number of refugees to 4 million today — is not at issue. Why not teach that truth?
By amending history textbooks for Arab children, Israel has acknowledged the validity of the Nakba. And if it’s valid for Arabs, it should be valid for Jews as well.
What is really amazing about something like this is that those writing it don’t have the least consciousness of the fact that in Arab and Palestinian media, books, politics, etc., nothing that Israelis and Jews say, feel, or have experienced is acknowledged in any way. In other words, they and others demand that Israel be completely balanced — and criticize anything that appears not to be — while not demanding anything of the other side. I might add that I am not opposed to a passage being put in Israeli textbooks saying that the Arabs consider the creation of Israel a disaster for themselves.
But for the Los Angeles Times, one might expect some minimal attempt at balance, even if only to protect those writing it from well-grounded accusations of bias or stupidity. Something along the lines of: And Palestinian textbooks and media should also be revised. Yet in this seven-paragraph-long editorial there is no mention of how the Arab world deals with Israel or Jews. And if one points out how ridiculously imbalanced what they are doing is, those parts of the media and Western intellectuals who say such things would either be startled or dismissive.
Let’s assume that Israel’s coverage of the Arab/Palestinian world view is just barely passing. That would make the score 80 for Israel and 0 for its enemies.
But there is still more ignorance here. First, every Israeli knows about how the Palestinians view the situation. Palestinians, both leaders, and average people, are constantly quoted. The observance of Nakba Day, a recently created Palestinian commemoration mourning Israel’s creation, is widely covered in the Israeli media. When a long series on Israeli history was televised about two years ago this point was included.
But the opposite does not apply. Any survey of the Palestinian media–and that includes the television and newspapers controlled by the Palestinian Authority–will rarely if ever find any examples of empathy or even honesty about Israel, its people, or its history. MEMRI, Palestinian Media Watch, and the U.S. government’s Foreign Broadcast Information Service, can and have supplied huge numbers of examples of this situation.
While there is some debate over exactly what current Palestinian textbooks contain–whether they reject Israel’s existence altogether–there is certainly nothing that says, for example, “The Zionists felt a strong connection with their ancient land and argued that reestablishing a state there was necessary for their people’s survival and well-being.” The book could then go on to explain why Palestinians rejected this idea. Palestinians and Arabs in general are taught by every source — sermons, government statements, textbooks, etc. — that Israel is evil and illegitimate. The great majority of the time, the few statements that contradict these claims are discouraged, censored, or punished.
In general in the Arab world, Israel and Israelis are presented as monstrous murderers. In the Israeli media — tv, radio, and the four main daily newspapers–the presentation of the Palestinians is not that much different from what appears in the American media. There is considerable sympathy for their plight coupled with exposure and scathing criticism of any action that Israel’s government or army commits that is deemed illegal or immoral. Soldiers who kill or injure civilians are punished or put on trial. On the Palestinian side, no one has ever been punished for terrorist acts against Israeli civilians (at most, they are convicted of staging attacks at the wrong time, and even these people are quickly and quietly released).
How then can such nonsense appear in elite American newspapers, so totally one-sided, demanding perfection from Israel and nothing from the other side? Clearly this must be an example of a philosophical standpoint which is distorting the truth and greatly damaging — I am tempted to write the words, “possibly helping to destroy” — the cause of truth-seeking, democracy, and freedom in the world. The roots and effects of that world view, which applies nowadays to far more than Israel, need to be explored and combated.
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs, and author of the recently published The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan).