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Joan Peters and the Perils of Challenging the Palestinian Narrative

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by Jonathan S. Tobin, commentarymagazine.com, Jan. 13, 2015

The death last week of author Joan Peters recalls one of the most intense and bitter literary controversies in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Her 1984 book From Time Immemorial set off a memorable scuffle between both Israeli and Arab writers. But like many such controversies the ultimate impact of the discussion did more to obscure the truth about the origins of the conflict over historic Palestine that she had set out to illuminate than shedding light on it. The moral of the story is that while Peters’s book was flawed, it might have prompted an important debate about one of the key assumptions of Israel’s critics. Instead, the angry pushback her volume received from liberals and Arab apologists served only to demonstrate that anyone who seeks to challenge the Palestinian narrative of dispossession by the Jews does so at their own peril.

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