There is no doubt that David Ben Gurion, who was born in 1886 in Poland, then part of the Russian Empire, has correctly been recognised everywhere as the founder of Israel, created in 1948 by a UN resolution. But the issue that has recently been uncovered, touching off a damaging charge, emanates from the just revealed hard-line advocacy of Ben Gurion more than 10 years earlier on how to establish a firm Zionist foothold in Palestine where the majority of the population were then Arabs.
A recently revealed 1937 letter, which has never been published in full in English, from the Zionist leader to his son, Amos, underlined Ben Gurion’s blatant intentions that involved the expulsion of the Arab population from Palestine in 1948 and thereafter (www.palestine-studies.org).
The row was started when CAMERA, the Jewish Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, belatedly protested an “erroneous citation” in a 2006 article that was carried in the Journal of Palestine Studies (JPS), a quarterly published by the University of California for the Lebanon-based Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS). The institute, which seeks to protect the historical record on Palestine, is highly respected for its authoritative academic research and publishing on all matters relating to the Palestine problem and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. IPS has had an office in Washington, D.C. since 1971.
The article, written by Dr Ilan Pappe, an Israeli professor who teaches at Exeter University in the United Kingdom, was titled, The 1948 Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Pappe, who was exonerated by his own university after a lengthy investigation, was accused by CAMERA of lifting an erroneous line attributed to Ben Gurion which said, “The Arabs will have to go [from Palestine], but one needs an opportune moment for making it happen, such as a war” — from a 2004 book by Charles D. Smith called Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict.
The editors of the Journal of Palestine Studies apologised for the inadvertency, but the incident prompted the Journal to seek the original letter by Ben Gurion in Hebrew and to translate it into English which turned out to be most revealing about the Israeli leader’s intentions in several paragraphs. In the just-released 2012 winter edition of JPS they wrote: “In our view, far more important that an inadvertently misplaced or missing citation or a punctuation lapse — which, while misleading, can be corrected — is the accuracy of Pappe’s presentation. This is because of its absolute centrality to the historical record of Ben Gurion’s stance on partition and transfer.”
The allegedly “fake” quote, they argued, “must be seen in the context in which it occurs.” In his letter to Amos, Ben Gurion clearly stated that in the “proposed partition [of Palestine] we will get more than what we already have, though of course much less than we merit and desire.” He went on, “what we really want is not that the land remain whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish. A unified Eretz Israel would be no source of satisfaction for me — if it were Arab.”
He continued: “From our standpoint, the status quo is deadly poison. We want to change the status quo. But how can this change come about? How can this land become ours? The decisive question is: Does the establishment of a Jewish state [in only part of Palestine] advance or retard the conversion of this country into a Jewish country? My assumption ... is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning.”
There are several admissions by Ben Gurion that Israelis “must expel Arabs and take their place” such as when he suggested that Jews could settle in the Negev, nowadays under Israeli control. He elaborated: “... if we are compelled to use force — not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan (as Jordan was known then), but in order to guarantee our right to settle there — our force will enable us to do so.”
Israeli officials and their friends in Israel or overseas seem never willing to practice some self-examination, as in the highly publicised case of the German poet Gunter Grass for saying Israel is a threat to world peace and for calling for international oversight of both Israeli and Iranian nuclear facilities. The Nobel laureate’s logical point was, as the Associated Press reported, “how Israel could call for ending Iran’s nuclear programme while holding what is widely believed to be its own atomic arsenal” — a point that has recently been raised in this column.
Similarly, how can Thomas L. Friedman, the New York Times columnist, suggest on April 3 that Palestinians should “accompany any boycotts, sit-ins or hunger strikes (against Israel) with a detailed map of the final two-state settlement they are seeking”?!
Hasn’t he heard that the Palestinian National Authority has expressed repeatedly willingness to establish a state on all land occupied since 1967 which amounts to less than half of what they were offered under the Partition Plan? Hasn’t the eminent columnist heard of the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative which expressed willingness of all Arab states to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel?
It would be more appropriate for Friedman to call on Israel and specifically Benjamin Netanyahu to submit a peace plan to the Palestinians and all the Arab governments so that negotiations could start immediately. In brief, it is time for all to call Israel’s bluff!
George S. Hishmeh is a Washington-based columnist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org