NPR anchor displays shocking ignorance

NPR anchor Robert SiegelI was making a salad for dinner on Thursday (July 23) when I heard the following, on the NPR program “all things considered”:

The Israeli Ministry of Education has banned reference to the Arabic the word ‘nakba‘ from Arabic-language Israeli textbooks. The word ‘nakba‘ means ‘the catastrophe’ and it resonates for millions of Palestinians; it’s the word that they use to describe the creation of the state of Israel, when millions of Palestinians became refugees at the end of the 1948 war.

The anchorperson, Robert Siegel,  should know better, being an alumnus of one of the best high schools in New York, Stuyvesant HS. Of course he also went to Columbia University, where — if he were a student today — he could take courses from tenured professors Joseph Massad, who decries “the renaming of ‘Palestinian rural salad (now known in New York delis as Israeli salad)’ as an example of Israeli ‘racism'”, and Nadia Abu El-Haj, who — while rejecting “a positivist commitment to scientific methods” and accepting a methodology “rooted in … post-structuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory and developed in response to specific postcolonial political movements” — still expects us to believe her contention that Israeli archeologists deliberately falsify findings to show a Jewish provenance in the land of Israel.

To get back to the story, only about 650,000 Arabs became refugees in 1948 (reasonable estimates range from 550,000 to 700,000). The millions who today claim refugee status have ‘inherited’ it from their parents, or simply claimed it in order to get on UNRWA’s dole.

There is much to say about refugees, more than I can present in a blog post. Here are a few things for you and Robert Siegel to keep in mind when you think about Mahmoud Abbas’ demand that all 4.5 million have a ‘right of return’ to Israel:

  • The “1948 war” actually began in 1947 when the Jews accepted the UN partition resolution and the Palestinian Arabs chose to fight. It intensified in 1948 after Israel declared independence and was invaded by armies of five Arab nations. In other words, the Arabs bear responsibility for starting the war.
  • Of the Arab refugees from Israel, there were those that left in anticipation of war (many from of the upper classes of Arab society), there were those who left in response to exhortations from the leadership, there were those who fled as a result of exaggerated atrocity stories (e.g., the Deir Yassin incident in which about 110 Arabs were killed, many of them combatants, and nobody was raped), there were some that fled actual fighting, and there were some — a minority, mostly from hostile villages — who were actually expelled.

Israel launched a “build your own home” project in the 1970s that allotted a half dunam of land “to Palestinians who then financed the purchase of building materials and, usually with friends, erected a home. Israel provided the infrastructure: sewers, schools, etc. More than 11,000 camp dwellers were resettled… before PLO, using intimidation tactics, ended the program.” Israeli authorities contended that had the program been allowed to continue apace, “within eight years every camp resident could own a single-dwelling home in a clean and uncongested neighborhood.” Joel Bainerman, “Permanent Homes for Palestinian Refugees,” Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 1992.

  • UNRWA, the UN organization created specifically for the purpose of supporting Palestinian refugees, provides welfare services which encourage population growth and dependency without moving in the direction of providing permanent homes for refugees — precisely the most destabilizing policy imaginable.

That’s just a beginning.

The ‘nakba‘ concept is part of the Palestinian story that the situation of the refugees today is all Israel’s fault, which Israel should remedy by committing suicide. You can understand why the Israeli Ministry of Education doesn’t want to pay to print textbooks that promote this point of view.

The salad I was making? It was an Israeli salad.

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3 Responses to “NPR anchor displays shocking ignorance”

  1. sabashimon says:

    Vic, here’s a few more Arab quotes regarding the “refugees”, and how they become such:

    On April 23, 1948 Jamal Husseini, acting chairman of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee (AHC), told the UN Security Council:

    “The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce… They preferred to abandon their homes, belongings and everything they possessed.”

    On September 6, 1948, the Beirut Daily Telegraph quoted Emil Ghory, secretary of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee, as saying:

    “The fact that there are those refugees is the direct consequence of the action of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously…”

    On October 2, 1948, the London Economist reported, in an eyewitness account of the flight of Haifa’s Arabs:

    “There is little doubt that the most potent of the factors [in the flight] were the announcements made over the air by the Arab Higher Executive urging all Arabs in Haifa to quit… And it was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.”

    The Jordanian daily Falastin wrote on February 19, 1949:

    “The Arab states… encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies.”

    On June 8, 1951, Habib Issa, secretary-general of the Arab League, wrote in the New York Lebanese daily al-Hoda that in 1948, Azzam Pasha, then League secretary, had…

    “…assured the Arab peoples that the occupation of Palestine and of Tel Aviv would be as simple as a military promenade… Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property, and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states.”

    On April 9, 1953, the Jordanian daily al-Urdun quoted a refugee, Yunes Ahmed Assad, formerly of Deir Yassin, as saying:

    “For the flight and fall of the other villages, it is our leaders who are responsible, because of the dissemination of rumors exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs… they instilled fear and terror into the hearts of the Arabs of Palestine until they fled, leaving their homes and property to the enemy.”

    Another refugee told the Jordanian daily a-Difaa on September 6, 1954: “The Arab governments told us, ‘Get out so that we can get in.’ So we got out, but they did not get in.”

    Former Prime Minister of Syria, Khaled al-Azem, in his memoirs, published in 1973, listed what he thought were the reasons for the Arab failure in 1948:

    “The fifth factor was the call by the Arab governments to the inhabitants of Palestine to evacuate it and leave for the bordering Arab countries… We brought destruction upon a million Arab refugees by calling on them and pleading with them to leave their land.”

    In the March 1976 issue of “Falastin a-Thaura,” then the official PLO journal, PLO spokesman Mahmud Abbas (“Abu Mazen”) wrote:

    “The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, they abandoned them, forced them to emigrate and to leave their homeland, and threw them into prisons similar to the ghettos in which the Jews used to live.”

    British Foreign Office Document #371/75342/XC/A/4991 records:

    “Following a visit to refugees in Gaza, a British diplomat reported the following: ‘But while they express no bitterness against the Jews… they speak with the utmost bitterness of the Egyptians and other Arab states: ‘We know who our enemies are,’ they will say, and they are referring to their Arab brothers who, they declare, persuaded them unnecessarily to leave their homes.”

  2. Moll says:

    The arabic word “nakba” was first used in the years 1916-1920; the period of history in that part of the world when France and Britain were carving up the Ottoman-Turk Empire into the French to govern the northern Levant, and the British to govern the southern Levant (read the McMahon-Hussein correspondence, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the San Remo Conference papers). In 1920, the year Syria declared itself formally as a nation, France mounted an aggressive war to take on the governing of the northern Levant, which included Syria — chasing all the arab leadership OUT. Many arabs fled along with their leaders — migrating to the southern territories of the old Ottoman-Turk Empire which was being governed by the British. This arab population migration out of the French-governed northern Levant, to British governed southern Levant, was called the “nakba” by the fleeing arabs.

    The use of the term “nakba” to describe the 1948 displacement of arabs from the British governed southern Levant is a term that’s been politically “hijacked” to serve the arab’s political agenda of today, similar to the term “palestinians”, which was invented in 1973 to serve the political agenda of Arafat.

    So if Israel is asking the word “nakba” NOT to be used in curricular materials for the arab school children living in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, it is because the history of the word “nakba” is NOT being taught. This word has a history that begins much earlier than 1948.

  3. DALevit says:

    It’s getting impossible to watch this farce play out, to stay involved and aware. I am starting to understand to reason for the ignorance n this country, and as expressed by this NPR buffoon. My own life is starting to suffer from my constant interest in the Israeli VS everyone else conflict. even started my own blog as therapy, which no one seems to know is there, to provide some links to truth. No one wants truth anymore.
    Horribly, I now believe that the Arabs may win, just by sheer willpower. How can we stay involved when all we can feel is helplessness? DAL