Zionism Does Not Need Propaganda

Because the Palestinians have shown no willingness to deal with their historical responsibility for what ensued, there is a grave moral defect in the Nakba discourse.

I agree with Ronen Shoval ("Peace and the lies of the Nakba," Haaretz, May 16 ) that what happened to the Palestinians in 1948 was the result of their rejecting the UN partition plan and beginning a war meant to destroy the State of Israel. Because the Palestinians have shown no willingness to deal with their historical responsibility for what ensued, there is a grave moral defect in the Nakba discourse.

But Shoval bases his case on heaps of unfounded arguments. This provides a good opportunity to set the record straight, especially given the disgraceful article published last week by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in The New York Times, which makes no mention of the fact that the Arabs rejected the partition plan and declared war on Israel.

First, Shoval claims that "in 1948 most of the Arab inhabitants of the country were new immigrants who arrived in the wake of the economic prosperity brought by Zionism." That has no basis. The Arab population in the Land of Israel did not increase any more than it did in the neighboring countries, and there is no proof of massive Arab immigration to Palestine. Although in Jaffa there were port workers from Syria, and in Haifa there were mostly Christian merchants from Lebanon, the Arab community in the Galilee, in the hilly regions, as well as in Jaffa, Jerusalem and the coastal plain, was indigenous. It is not a good idea to spread nonsense.

Second, Shoval claims that "most of the Arabs who abandoned Israel did so of their own free will, at the order of the Supreme Arab Committee." There is no proof and no document that confirms this statement. In the complex reality of 1947-1948, with the beginning of Arab attacks against the Jewish community, there were Arabs who left of their own free will (the members of the Arab elites in Jaffa and Jerusalem were the first to do so ). There were some who fled in fear, especially after the massacre in Dir Yassin. There were instances, as in Haifa, in which the heads of the Jewish community begged the Arabs not to leave, and there were some who were expelled. In the atmosphere of rioting and fighting, rumors were spread here and there about instructions delivered by the Arab leadership for the population to leave. But despite decades of research, to this day no document or broadcast has been found confirming that such orders were given.

Moreover, the 1948 war was characterized by the collapse of the Palestinian leadership, which was unable to create a uniform or orderly military command. To think that such an order - even if it existed - would have led hundreds of thousands of people to abandon their homes belies the social and political situation of the Arab community, whose plight at the time can be blamed to no small degree on the absence of a legitimate and effective leadership (this failure exists to this day, despite what appears to be an agreement between Fatah and Hamas ).

Third, Shoval states that "the Arab leadership headed by the mufti joined the Nazis and promoted the Final Solution." It is true that the mufti spent the period of World War II in Nazi Berlin and supported the destruction of the Jews. But just as it is impossible to lay responsibility and blame on the entire German nation for Nazi crimes, it is impossible to lay such collective responsibility and blame on the entire Palestinian population.

Fourth, with all our desire not to ignore the responsibility of the Arab nations for the fate of the Jews in Arab countries, the circumstances under which they left their homes and the loss of their property, the comparison with the plight of Palestinian refugees is not completely relevant. At least in Zionist terms, the Jews of the Arab countries returned to their homeland - Israel - and the State of Israel even encouraged them in many, and sometimes controversial, ways to do so.

To sum up, Zionism does not need propaganda lies. They only distort the simple Zionist truth, which is the right of the Jewish people to enjoy self-determination and to be a free people in its own land.