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August 10, 1984 - Image 41

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

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Friday, August 10,-44 41



Arab immigration was forbidden and Jewish
immigratiion encouraged by the Balfour De-
claration, which committed the British gov-
ernment to support the establishment of a
national home for the Jewish people in Pales-
Even so, Peters says, Arabs continued to
come in illegally and with the help of the
British, taking the places set aside for Jews
who were then told by the British that there
was no room for them. "Arabs say Jews ex-
clnded them from Palestine. In fact, it was
the Arabs who displaced Jews, not vice versa.
At that same time that the British were
shooting at the miserable little Jewish refu-
gee ships saying there was no place or work
for Jews, they were off bringing in tens of
thousands of Arabs from other countries and
then calling them natives afterwards. In fact,
they were not natives at all but itinerant
workers who needed money and came from
all over the Arab world to the land the Jews
had developed."
Peters notes that President Franklin
Roosevelt was aware of that, saying in a pri-
vate conversation in 1939, that "Arab immi-
gration into Palestine since 1921 has vastly
exceeded the total Jewish immigration dur-
ing the same period" and asking "how the
British government reads into the original
Mandate . . . any policy that would limitJew-
ish immigration?"

Whatever the answer, the result was that
between 1893 and 1948 the Arab population
in the Jewish areas of Palestine had jumped
to 463,000 — a 400 percent increase. Peters
says it's always been assumed that jump was
the result of a phenomenally high Arab
birthrate. But again, Peters says, that's not _
true, noting that during the same period the
Arab population in the parts of Palestine not
settled heavily by Jews had only doubled.
Arabs in the Jewish-settled areas should
have multiplied at about the same rate.
Based on that rate, the Arab population in
the Jewish areas should have gone to
249,000, not 463,000. So where did the extra •
214,000 come from? Either from outside the
country or from the non-Jewish areas inside
the country. Either way, says Peters, "Jews,
could not be said to have displaced people
who only came after them."
And because it wasn't that their ances-
tors had lived there for centuries or even that
they had been born there, with the coming of
1948 and the establishment of Israel, the
Arabs who left, says Peters, were "simply
those who had recently arrived in search of "
better opportunities. They *eren't displaced.
They were returning home."
Still, says Peters, the United Nations
didn't let that stop them. "In all previous
definitions, League of Nations documents

Continued on next page '

oan Peters' book is being hailed in some
circles as a turning point in the Mideast
debate rather than just the publication
of a new thesis. Barbara Tuchman, an historian
not known for hyperbole, said, "this book is an
historical event in itself, a discovery that has
lain in the dark all along until its revelation by
Joan Peters' unrelenting research. It could well
change the course of events in the Middle East.
Similar praise has been heard in other cir-
cles, with such luminaries as Elie Wiesel, Saul
Bellow, Lucy Dawidowicz and Arthur Goldberg
heralding Peter's presentation and crediting
her for, in Bellow's words, "correcting false his-
The Near East Report, the newsletter asso-
ciated with the American Israel Public Affairs
Committee in Washingto, devoted three con-
secutive weekly articles to the book, summariz-
ing Peters' major findings and urging readers to
include it in their Mideast libraries. Editor M.J.
Rosenberg noted that "a close reading of Joan
Peters' From Time Immemorial indicates that
the pro-Israel argument has been framed disad-
vantageously. The anti-Zionist claim that Jews
came to Palestine and supplanted an indig-
enous local population has been, in large part,
accepted. Until Peters, no one had uncovered
the evidence to prove that the pre-1967 Israel
contained a population that was almost equally
divided between Jews and Arabs as early as
The one negative review of the book to date
has come from the New York Times, ,in which
John Campbell, formerly with• the Council of
Foreign Relations, said that Peters came across
as more of a propagandist for Israel's cause than -
. an objective historian. But Campbell's own bias
comes through in his full-page critique: For in-
stance, while' an important part of Peters'
argument -- and an indisputable fact — is that
Jordan is part of so-called Palestine, Campbell
mentions that Israel now "holds all of Pales-
tine." As .M.J. Rosenberg correctly asked, "if
Jordan is not part of geographic and historic
Palestine, what is it?" •
The book itself is certainly not an "easy"
read. About a - third of its 600.pages are dekroted
to appendixes, footnotes and bibliography. But
it is well organized and compelling reading
throughout. In her conclusion, Peters writes:
"Today, the explicitly•tated Arab goals appear
to be gaining credence once again through the
medium of propaganda and twisted rhetoric,
unquestioned by those of us who haven't known
the questions to ask, and unhindered by many
who have guessed. those who understand the
reality ought to demand 'more."
' Peters has provided us with the questions
to ask. If her book is taken seriously, as it should
be, the very terms of the Mideast debate will be '
reformulated and elevated to a higher level.


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