Sunday, June 27, 2010

Max Mixes It Up

And who is subtle in his twisting of facts in a book review of Bernard Lewis' newest book, Religion and Politics in the Middle East?

Max Rodenbeck, Middle East correspondent for The Economist.

Here's what he writes:-

"But he gets the past subtly wrong, too, often by omitting vital context. He says that when the Arabs rejected the partition of Palestine in 1947, it was simply because they refused to accept having a Jewish state next door. Yet Arabs were not alone in questioning the United Nations plan to allocate 56 percent of Palestine’s territory to a minority consisting mostly of recent immigrants, which made up barely a third of the population and owned just 7 percent of the land. Greece, India and Cuba, among others, also voted no, while China, Ethiopia, Colombia, Chile and Mexico abstained. The overriding motive of all these doubters was presumably not bigotry, as Lewis implies, but concern about Palestinians’ rights.

Vital context? Subtly wrong?

Hmmm. But we'll keep it concise.


We all know that immigration to Mandate Palestine was restricted. The infamous "schedule" system. For example, Arab terror forced Britain to limit incoming Jews between 1939-1944 to 75,000 and only some 60,000 or less made it in.

And how "recent" is recent"? What about the Ottoman period when Jews had to sneak in?

Heck, how many Arabs - from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt - were recent arrivals?


But "Palestine Mandate" was partitioned. If it was all or nothing, what difference "minority"? Besides, all the Jews in the "Arab State" were killed or ethnically cleansed.

And if he includes Judea and Samaria in the concept of "Palestine", well, we're back. The "territories" belong to Israel because Rodenbeck says so since they're part of "Palestine", all or nothing.


More than 7 per cent but Arabs only privately owned some 15% so big deal. Over 75% of the land was state land, belonging to the government in power.


Most of those voting against did so because either Arab Bloc/Muslim nations pressure or pressure from the Vatican.

It's all fairly straightforward and simple, but not Max.


here; here; here;

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your response is interesting but I think you missed the point.

Rodenbeck implies that the Arabs were willing to accept a Jewish state but just objected to the percentage split of territory. But that’s simply not true. There’s no evidence of that any Arab leader at the time expressed willingness to accept a Jewish state then within different borders.

Rodenbeck also implies his sympathy for the Arab position that there should not have been a Jewish state and states that this should not be seen as bigotry. Rodenbeck, of course, is entitled to the opinion that the Jewish state should not exist, as well as to his opinion that opposing the Jewish right to statehood should not be read as bigotry against Jews. But that doesn’t make Lewis’s historical observation – that the Arabs opposed the founding of a Jewish state – wrong.

Rodenbeck seems to be piqued by the conclusions Lewis draws from history. And that is surely Rodenbeck’s right. But Rodenbeck has no right to rewrite history to try to make it fit his politics better.