Thursday, March 12, 2009

A Gisborne Herald discussion

The Gisborne Herald has an excellent website and generously facilitates a vibrant Letters to the Editor section.

My interest was aroused when I chanced upon a letter from Rodney Brooks, replying to a previous correspondent, that just seemed to encapsulate all that one hears about the dogged determination of what in the US is called the Israel Lobby, headed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

This quote from a statement released by Chas Freeman, who was recently forced to resign from his new appointment as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council is revealing:

The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. (click on link for full report).

In my opinion, Dr Brooks commits all these sins. Here is the letter published on the Gisborne Herald website:

If Mr Gretton will look at my letter again, he will see that there was no attack on his person — only on his (inaccurate) charges. Historic Palestine was not ‘wiped off the map’, but was divided, as were other Arab parts of the Ottoman Empire, into Jordan, Israel and a Palestinian state, the latter division taking place in 1948. However the land intended for the Palestinian state was instead taken over by Jordan and Egypt. While some of the Arabs who left Israel were ‘expelled’, most fled voluntarily from a war that they (the Arabs) had started. However Jews living in the lands taken by Jordan and Egypt were expelled or murdered — all of them. As for the Arabs that stayed, 1.4 million today are full-fledged citizens of Israel and have been from the beginning. There is an Arab Cabinet Minister, Arab Israelis in the diplomatic service, an Arab High Court Judge and other Arab judges in the lower courts. Life may not be ideal, but polls show that Arabs in Israel would rather remain Israeli citizens than become part of a Palestinian state, and that says a lot.

Rodney Brooks, Chairman
Kiwis for Balanced Reporting on the Mideast

It's impossible to cover so much blatant distortion (the same charge, to be fair, these Israel lobbyists apply to those who present the true facts) within the limitations of a letter to a newspaper. Inevitably, one is required to be selective.

This was my submission in reply, kindly published by the Editor:

Red Herrings rather than facts

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dr Rodney Brooks' latest missive is his usual litany of misleading information, and red herrings presented as cast-iron facts.

His assertion that historic Palestine was divided between Jordan, a Palestine state and Israel, is incorrect and a typical red herring.

British Mandate Palestine recognised the traditional, albeit unofficial, border of the Jordan River.

Jordan was not allocated any Palestinian territory in the Partition Plan. And he ignores the fact that Israel has all but annexed the majority of the land allocated to a Palestinian state.

Dr Brooks persists that "the Arabs" started the war. In fact, after the passing of UN Resolution 181, November 29, 1947, a recommendation only, rightfully rejected by Palestinians, Palestinian notables called for a three-day general strike and demonstrations.

As is usual in such charged circumstances, demonstrators engaged in acts of vandalism, involving mainly Jewish shops, and these were used as an excuse by the Jewish forces for terrorist attacks on Palestinians villages.

Thus began a systematic campaign of massacres and forced expulsion by the Zionists, who had formulated the principle of expelling Palestine's indigenous population as far back as 1897.

Dr Brooks, like Israeli citizens who themselves are denied the truth by their official historians, continues to deny the events Palestinians named "al nakba", the catastrophe.

The evidence that this ethnic cleansing was organised and systematic is overwhelmingly proved by Israel's own declassified documents and the personal papers of many Jewish leaders of that era.

And you never see Dr Brooks referring to Palestinians.

They are always the catch-all "Arabs", as well as Israeli propaganda to delegitimise Palestinians as a pre-existing people.

I urge you to consider carefully before publishing without independent verification the blatant Israeli propaganda trotted out so faithfully by Dr Brooks and his artfully misnamed "organisation".

Boy oh boy, did this letter get some attention from the Kiwi Israel Lobby. Dr Brooks was in boots and all, as was David Swartz and a fellow from "NZ Friends of Israel Association, Inc."

I was busy for a few days, then fell sick, so I didn't even check if that little effort was published, but when I next logged on it was evident it had, as my name seemed to be everywhere on the letters pages!

And I learnt a few lessons from the replies of the above gentleman.

I must try to be as unambiguous as possible. All accused me of being unaware of the facts of the division of the Mandate. It's yet another example of the way clever debaters jump on any lack of clarity. Israel's propaganda has always tried to deny the legitimacy of Palestine as a nation state, and I assumed Dr Brooks was simply continuing that line.

Of course Palestine has never been a nation, rather, it was always a colonial province of each of the empires that held sway over that area at any one time. This fact does not diminish its claim as deserving of self-determination, as was granted many other former colonies now fully fledged members of the United Nations.

So the second lesson is, don't assume.

And another lesson is, just stick to the facts and don't get side-tracked with remarks that seem clever at the time, but just enables "them" to evade the real issue.

After all, these are people who really do believe Moses led a million or so people into a desert where they wandered for 40 years, leaving no verifiable trace whatsoever, then emerged to defeat a great army. Oh dear.

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