Book Review: Separating Fact from Propaganda – Ruth R. Wisse
Ari Shavit’s best-seller, My Promised Land, recasts the creation of the State of Israel as naqba, the “catastrophe” that is the founding myth of Arab Palestinians. Researcher Alex Safian has taken the trouble to separate fact from propaganda in Shavit’s description of an alleged massacre in the battle over the Palestinian Arab town of Lydda (Lod) during the 1948 War of Independence. The Arab inhabitants of Lydda first surrendered to Jewish soldiers and then, having retracted their surrender when it seemed that Jordanian forces had gained the upper hand, went about killing and mutilating Israeli fighters. Once the Israelis secured the town, they let the Arabs leave, something both sides recognized would never have happened had victory gone the other way.
Shavit fails to distinguish the triumph of Israel from the tragedy of the Arab and Muslim war against it – a war that began before 1948 and that has always been indifferent to concessionary adjustments of Israel’s boundaries or policies. The only harm Israelis ever did to Arabs – and I emphasize only – was to impose on the Palestinians a terrorist leader, Yasir Arafat, whom Israelis would never have allowed to rule over themselves. The writer is professor of Yiddish and comparative literature at Harvard. (Mosaic)