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August 10, 1984 - Image 40

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-08-10

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40 Friday, August 10, 1984

It

it

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

RN
HE
IDE
DEBATE .
INSIDE
T

BY JOSEPH AARON

Special to The Jewish News

JOAN PETERS,

the author of a controversial new
book that is being called 'a historical
event claims that the 'facts' about
the origins of the Arab-Jewish con-
flict are all wrong

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TM

T

he Middle East, no stranger to conflict
East, that before 1948, there were no prob- •
and upheaval, is about to be turned
lems between Arabs and Jews."
upside down.
In fact, says Peters, the problems began
By a book.
long before there were Zionists. Problems
A book that says forget what you know
caused not by Jews, but by Arabs. "It started
about the Middle East. Forget what you
in the 7th century, with the rise of Islam. It's
know about the issues and the arguments
then that all the hateful words about Jews
and the history and the problems. Because it
begin to appear in the Koran. That's because
simply ain't so. For what the book, From
it was then that Jews refused to take.on the
Time Immemorial, does in 601 pages and
Islamic faith. Jews at that time were living
1,792 footnotes is, says author Joan Peters,
in many parts of Arabia. They had originally
methodically "tear apart the fabric of concep-
settled many of those areas, including the
tions about the Arab-Israel problem."
so-called purely Arab territory of Saudi Ara-
It does that, Peters told the BALTIMORE
bia. Because of their refusal to accept Islam
JEWISH TIMES, by "refuting the common wis-
and stubborn insistence on keeping their
dom of many years," showing that crucial
Judaism, they were slaughtered, subjugated,
`facts' and assumptions about the basis of the
treated as infidels, unbelievers. The Koran
dispute are wrong. Such as the 'fact' that
said
Jews were to be humiliated and so,
until the Zionists came along, Jews and
throughout
the Arab world, throughout the
Arabs lived peacefully side by side. Wrong,
centuries,
Jews
were tortured, ghettoized,
says Peters. The 'fact' that Palestine was his-
often
killed.
That
tradition was carried to
torically a place with a very high Arab and
Palestine."
very low Jewish population. Wrong, says
All of this can be seen, says Peters, in a
Peters. The Tact' that Jewish, mostly Euro-
19th century report by the British consul in
pean, immigrants, determined to establish
Palestine. He noted a rare occurrence a
their own homeland, came in and kicked
Moslem being arrested for the very common
Arabs out of the native land they had been in
occurrence of robbing, pillaging, and abusing
for centuries. Wrong, says Peters.
Jews in their house. The consul reported that
All. those wrongs have been accepted as
as he was being arrested, the Moslem be-
rights, says Peters, thanks to British bias
came indignant, saying, "It has been our
which kept them from keeping records about
right from time immemorial to take what
the Arab population in Palestine, lack of
belongs to the Jews, without an accounting."
Israeli proof and an abundance of Arab
That factor, says Peters, "is pivotal-and
propaganda. Me propaganda has been pro-
can't be ignored in the Palestinian question
lific and expensively done," says Peters. "It's
today. It shows the Arabs' innate inbred
been hammered away and reiterated year
abhorrence towards a subjugated group of
after ye'ar until even the victims of the Big
second-class citizens becoming equals in the
Lie, the Israelis, have come to believe it. The
Middle East. Which means that what is at
real facts, once known, were buried. To find
the
bottom of all the problems of the Middle
theM was a matter of excavating."
East is the very long-standing belief that
And excavating Peters did for Seven
what is the Jews' in the Israel is the right of
years, gathering information which showed
the Moslems from time immemorial to take,
that what we have come to accept as truth,
without an accounting. So if they have to use
isn't. And showed that maybe one reason the
subterfuge and say they were• expelled from
problems of the Middle East go on is that
their honieland to take 'the Jewish state
what really caused them hasn't been known.
away from the Jews, they will."
Peters did it by digging up buried evidence
And so they have. But, says Peters, just
and finding new evidence from unread Otto-
as we have been wrong about when the prob-
man and British archives, League of Nations
lems started, so, too, have we been wrong
reports, private conversations of world lead-
about why they started. "I, like most, was led
ers, obscure library records and census data
to believe from the Zionist statements that
and an original investigation of Palestinian
Jews
returned to Palestine after 2,000 years,
immigration.
forced themselves into the country and forced
In the end, what she came up with was
out the mass of Arab natives who had been
there from time immemorial.
not what she started out to get. A veteran
journalist who has written extensively on
"In fact," says Peters, "Jews were always
foreign affairs and was a consultant to the
in Palestine, never left entirely and were
Carter Administration on the Middle 'East,
there before the Arabs came in." To show
Peters decided to write a book on the Middle
that, Peters focuses on 1870, when Jews be-
East after covering the Yom Kippur War. An
gan moving in significant numbers to Pales-
ardent civil rights and anti-Vietnam activist,
tine. They settled, she notes, in western
Peters was troubled by the Palestinian refu-
Palestine, an area continuously inhabited by
gees she saw and so wanted to help them by
Jews since the Diaspora. And they settled in
explaining how their plight came to be and
a land that was impoverished and sparsely
whose responsibility it was.
populated.
Armed with the common wisdom, Peters
It was, sayS Peters, only after Jews had
expected to find reasons to be sympathetic of
settled and begun to work the land, reclaim-
the Palestinians and critical of the Israelis.
ing what had been uncultivated for centur-
But the more she learned, the less things
ies, that Arabs, from Egypt, Syria, Lebnon,
were coming out the way she expected. And,
Jordan,
began to flock to the territory to live.
she says, she had trouble understanding
Until then, she notes, the Arab inhabitants
why. "For a long time I myselfthought what I
came and went without any special attach-
was finding couldn't be possible. I kept avoid-
ment to the place. "There was no intrinsic
ing it, kept putting it away, filing it in a
Palestinian
nationalism."
folder with a question mark on it. But the
In fact, an original demographic survey
more I uncovered, the bigger the file got. It
of who was in Palestine in 1893 shows that
was like a Chinese puzzle where you open
Jews outnumbered Moslems -- with 59,431
one box and find the cover of another box and
Jewd living there and 56,347 Moslems. •
you open it and find the cover ofanother box."
That was to be reversed, though, as Otto-
The box that got all that started took
man
and later British law tightly restricted
Peters back more than 1,200 years. "The con-
Jewish immigration while at the same time
ventional wisdom says Israel and the Zion-
leaving Arab immigration uncontrolled.
ists created all the problems in the Middle
That occurred despite the fact that in 1917

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