The Myth of Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Ari Shavit, an author and columnist of the leftist Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is being lionized by liberal, secular media in the West.  His new book, My Promised Land:  The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, is widely acclaimed as the ultimate insight into the founding and existence of the Jewish state.  Shavit wants readers to understand the full complexity of what makes Israelis tick.  And how the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians came about and still festers.

But Shavit veers off the rails -- and drastically so -- when he deals with the most fundamental question of Israel's existential rights in the Jews' ancient homeland.  Here, for example, is how he explains the birth and presence of the Jewish state, as reported by Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn:

This is about homeless people creating a home for themselves and creating homeless Palestinians."  In other words, Israel is a colonial implant whose existence has come at the expense of Palestinians and their rights to the land.  That, according to Shavit, is why triumph and tragedy are part and parcel of Israel's very definition.  That's why Shavit and Israelis who buy his argument are apt to be saddled with a huge dose of guilt.  ("A voice from Israel speaks of fear, celebration and caution" Dec. 14 Post edition, page B2)

Put another way, Israel is responsible for what Palestinians refer to as their "naqba" -- their historic "catastrophe," duly observed and remembered each year -- inflicted by Israel's creation.

Unfortunately, despite all the acclaim showered on Shavit, he's dispensing a myth, a historical fiction, that offends real history.

"Creating homeless Palestinians" was done not by Israelis, but by Arabs who rejected the U.N. two-state partition resolution in 1947 -- to have Jews and Arabs live side-by-side in a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state."  Israeli leaders accepted the U.N. partition plan; Arab regimes attacked it.  When the British ended their mandate and vacated the Holy Land the following year, Arab armies waged war on the nascent Jewish state, with the declared intent of destroying it.  While the fighting spawned thousands of displaced Palestinians, the wound was self-inflicted, not created by Israel, as Shavit would have readers believe.  Had Arab leaders accepted partition, there would have been no  "homeless Palestinians."

And that's how and why this tragedy has been around for the last 65 years.  Palestinian and Arab leaders adamantly pursued the dream of a one-state solution -- Arab rule over the entire land.  It was so in 1967, when Israel was forced to defend its very existence against the full might of Arab armies.  And again in 1973. 

In the meantime, "homeless Palestinians," as Shavit describes them, have morphed into millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, kept as pawns in pursuit of a pan-Arab "single-state solution."  And despite the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and current U.S.-brokered negotiations that presume to advance a peace process culminating in two states, Palestinians still harbor hopes, dreams, and strategic objectives to erase the Jewish state from the map of the Middle East.

That's quite obviously true of Hamas, which rules Gaza and doesn't hide its determination to exterminate Israel.  As for the Palestinian Authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, while professing support of a two-state solution, clings stubbornly to an absolute "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants -- a guaranteed solution to end Jewish rule in the Holy Land.  Under Abbas's strategy, there would be two states alright -- and both would be Arab.

The guilt Ari Shavit injects into Israel's body politic is totally unjustified.  Jewish ties and national rights to the land date back four millennia, solemnly affirmed by the international community in  modern times.  The plight of Palestinian refugees was and remains self-made.  If guilt need be dispensed, it should be found on the Palestinian side.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

Ari Shavit, an author and columnist of the leftist Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is being lionized by liberal, secular media in the West.  His new book, My Promised Land:  The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, is widely acclaimed as the ultimate insight into the founding and existence of the Jewish state.  Shavit wants readers to understand the full complexity of what makes Israelis tick.  And how the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians came about and still festers.

But Shavit veers off the rails -- and drastically so -- when he deals with the most fundamental question of Israel's existential rights in the Jews' ancient homeland.  Here, for example, is how he explains the birth and presence of the Jewish state, as reported by Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn:

This is about homeless people creating a home for themselves and creating homeless Palestinians."  In other words, Israel is a colonial implant whose existence has come at the expense of Palestinians and their rights to the land.  That, according to Shavit, is why triumph and tragedy are part and parcel of Israel's very definition.  That's why Shavit and Israelis who buy his argument are apt to be saddled with a huge dose of guilt.  ("A voice from Israel speaks of fear, celebration and caution" Dec. 14 Post edition, page B2)

Put another way, Israel is responsible for what Palestinians refer to as their "naqba" -- their historic "catastrophe," duly observed and remembered each year -- inflicted by Israel's creation.

Unfortunately, despite all the acclaim showered on Shavit, he's dispensing a myth, a historical fiction, that offends real history.

"Creating homeless Palestinians" was done not by Israelis, but by Arabs who rejected the U.N. two-state partition resolution in 1947 -- to have Jews and Arabs live side-by-side in a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state."  Israeli leaders accepted the U.N. partition plan; Arab regimes attacked it.  When the British ended their mandate and vacated the Holy Land the following year, Arab armies waged war on the nascent Jewish state, with the declared intent of destroying it.  While the fighting spawned thousands of displaced Palestinians, the wound was self-inflicted, not created by Israel, as Shavit would have readers believe.  Had Arab leaders accepted partition, there would have been no  "homeless Palestinians."

And that's how and why this tragedy has been around for the last 65 years.  Palestinian and Arab leaders adamantly pursued the dream of a one-state solution -- Arab rule over the entire land.  It was so in 1967, when Israel was forced to defend its very existence against the full might of Arab armies.  And again in 1973. 

In the meantime, "homeless Palestinians," as Shavit describes them, have morphed into millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, kept as pawns in pursuit of a pan-Arab "single-state solution."  And despite the Oslo Accords in the 1990s and current U.S.-brokered negotiations that presume to advance a peace process culminating in two states, Palestinians still harbor hopes, dreams, and strategic objectives to erase the Jewish state from the map of the Middle East.

That's quite obviously true of Hamas, which rules Gaza and doesn't hide its determination to exterminate Israel.  As for the Palestinian Authority, its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, while professing support of a two-state solution, clings stubbornly to an absolute "right of return" to Israel for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants -- a guaranteed solution to end Jewish rule in the Holy Land.  Under Abbas's strategy, there would be two states alright -- and both would be Arab.

The guilt Ari Shavit injects into Israel's body politic is totally unjustified.  Jewish ties and national rights to the land date back four millennia, solemnly affirmed by the international community in  modern times.  The plight of Palestinian refugees was and remains self-made.  If guilt need be dispensed, it should be found on the Palestinian side.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

RECENT VIDEOS