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2.0 out of 5 stars Shades of Grey, May 3, 2012
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This review is from: A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred (Encounter Broadsides) (Paperback)
I rarely discuss the series under whose imprimatur a certain work is published, but in the case of Sol Stern's extremist pamphlet "A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism", I have to quote, without comment, the series ("Encounter Broadsides")'s self description: "uniting an 18th century wit (think The Federalist Papers, Common Sense), with 21st century technology... [we] offer indispensable ammunition for intelligent debate on the critical issues of our time...

Stern's pamphlet has two aims. First, he wishes to establish that a New York times op-ed by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is based upon "blatant lies". Furthermore, he argues that the story of the Israeli-Arab conflict is a century of "Palestinian Rejectionism".

So what are the lies? Stern's sole critique is of Abbas's description of his family's flight from Safed in 1948. Safed, now a city in Northern Israel, had about ten Arabs for each Jewish resident in 1948, and yet was included in the Jewish zone of the 1947 UN partition plan. Following the partition decision, Safed's and neighboring Arabs attacked the Jewish quarter and shelled it. Israeli forces counter attacked and took over the city in May 1948. Most of Safed's Arab population fled Safed, fearing Jewish retribution for previous massacres against the Jews. This was not an unreasonable fear: the massacre of Arab civilians in Deir Yassin took place only a month earlier.

Abbas's op-ed describes these events thus: "Sixty-three years ago, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy was forced to leave his home in the Galilean city of Safed and flee with his family to Syria " Is this a fair and balanced description of the events? Not particularly. But surely, it is not an unusually dishonest statement for a politician.

In trying yo make his case for Palestinian rejectionism, Stern revives a version of the fiction that Zionism was the process of giving "A Land without a people to a people without a land". It is true that after the First World War, Palestine was far less populated than it is now; Only about 700 thousand people, and only a tenth of them Jews. But this does not mean that there was "plenty of room"; Many US states are considerably less densely populated than that, yet surely citizens would object vehemently if a foreign ethnic group would come to settle in, say Utah, even though the population density of mandatory Palestine was roughly the same as that of the present day Beehive State.

It is also true that Palestinian nationalism is a creature of the 20th century, and it arose to a great extent in response to the Zionist immigration. But Nationalism in general was a 19th century European phenomena that spread to the rest of the world in the 20th century. European Jews have adopted their own Nationalism only a few short years before the Palestinians had; The first Zionist Congress took place only in 1897.

The Palestinians naturally did not appreciate the waves of immigrants coming to the land; Consider the general opposition to foreign immigrants in all countries, and add to that the fact that the Zionists immigrants actively planned to take over the territory. The Palestinian reaction was sometimes violent; Palestinians massacres of Jews, especially in 1929, were notorious.

Predictably, Sol Stern focuses on the preeminent pre-1948 Arab leader, Mufti Al Huseini. Al-Husseini was initially a British client, but soon started to disassociate himself from His Majesty's Government on account of its continued support for Jewish immigration. Political survival among the Arabs probably would have pushed any Palestinian leader into a collision course with the British authorities. When that inevitably happened, Al Husseini cast his lot with his enemy's enemy - Hitler's Germany. He made rabidly anti-Semitic remarks, was clearly enamored with Fascism and Nazism, and some Nazi influenced propaganda is apparent in Islamist groups to this day.

Husseini's antisemitism and pro fascist ideologies are despicable, but they were not unique. In the 1930s and early 40s, fascism had quite an appeal, and not just in Germany and Italy. Sol Stern does not mention the Lehi (known by the British as the "Stern Gang"), a proto-fascist Jewish terrorist organization that wanted to negotiate with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany (one of Lehi's members, Yitzhak Shamir would later become Israel's seventh Prime Minister). Nor does he mention the "Transfer agreement", a collaboration between the Jewish institutions and the Nazis which encouraged Jewish immigration to Israel.

By the middle of the 1930s at the latest, there was already a critical mass of Jews in Palestine: Palestine's Jews were better organized, better led, more educated and better armed than their Arab neighbors. With the benefit of hindsight, the Palestinians would have been better off had they accepted one of the partition plans offered, in the 1930s or 1940s. Yet recognizing a harsh reality is not easy, and the Palestinian political class, new and inexperienced, was not that foresighted. But can they reasonably be blamed for that? They naturally considered the Jewish immigrants foreign invaders, and wanted to send them back to wherever they came from.

But a "Century of rejectionism" is not a couple of rejected offers between 1939-1947. Stern's account skips ahead to the year 2000, by passing the bloody history in between . In 2000, Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat rejected a peace proposal offered by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and endorsed by US President Bill Clinton. The exact details of the 2000 summit are still in dispute, but there is little doubt that Arafat came to meeting against his will, having lost all confidence in Barak and in political circumstances which made making a deal very difficult. Arafat might have transcended all the obstacles and agreed to a deal nonetheless. But he did not have it in him. There's plenty of blame to go around in the failure of the Camp David negotiations.

In 2005 Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decided, as Stern accurately states, that it was against Israel's interests to maintain physical presence in the Gaza strip. Stern is seriously bewildered that Palestinians did not appreciate this - his phrase - "Generosity". Of course not - Israel has left Gaza not as part of a negotiated settlement, but as a response to a violent terrorist campaign. The natural conclusion among Palestine's militants was that Israel couldn't be reasoned with, it had to be forced (Not that they were inclined to reason with Israel to begin with).

Further negotiations ensued between the Administration of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Palestinian President Abbas. Unlike the Camp David negotiations, which are heavily contested but on which a great deal of material is available, the Olmert-Abbas negotiations are shrouded in mystery. The exact nature of the proposals and counter proposals is unclear. It is possible that negotiations failed because Palestinians refused to give up on the right of return. But this is not a well documented claim. What is certain is that Olmert's administration, although it governed from 2006 to 2009, was very weak after the disastrous performance of Israel in the Second Lebanon War of the summer of 2006. Perhaps Abbas felt that it was impossible to deal with a lame duck Prime Minister. Or perhaps the offer made by Olmert was not as generous as it is now portrayed. Maybe George W. Bush's administration was unable to support both sides in the necessary concessions. The question is still very much open.

Stern does not discuss the negotiations, or rather lack thereof, during the Nethaniahu years, from 2009 to the present. But only days ago, the former head of Israel's internal security agency (the equivalent of the British MI5) Yuval Diskin, publicly stated what everyone knows - that the current Israeli leadership is uninterested in negotiations with the Palestinians, and that their reluctance is the chief cause of the lack of progress right now.

There is a great deal of rejectionism and hatered on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. I don't know how it can be solved, but surely seeing it in its full complexity, and not in Black and White, is a necessary step.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 3, 2012 11:21:13 PM PDT
H. Al-Talib says:
Thank you for this review, you seem to be quite impartial on the subject. Are there any books you would recommend that reflect this impartiality?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 3, 2012 11:53:36 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 3, 2012 11:54:57 PM PDT
Omer Belsky says:
Dear Mr. Al Talib

Thank you for the kind words; I've by no mean read all there is to read on the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and I haven't read any really good large scale study of the Conflict from the beginning to end.

The closest I know is A World of Trouble: The White House and the Middle East--from the Cold War to the War on Terror, which is focused on the US's point of view, with something of a pro-Arab bias, but offers a well written and friendly introduction to the Middle East from the 1940s to the administration of George W. Bush.

By far the best books about any aspect of the Israeli/Arab conflict I know are Michael Oren's Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle Eastand David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace, 20th Anniversary Edition: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. The former is written by the current Israeli ambassedor to the US, and it has been criticized sharply from the Left, but IMO while it is not unbiased it is fair and reflects a deep understanding of Israeli, Egyptian and American perspectives, and its a very well written piece as well.

David Fromkin's book is a real wonder of scholarship, and a book with an amazingly wide scope but is limited in the years that it covers.

The most impartial work I know is by Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, but I'm not sure it is sound regarding the British-Jewish relationship, and it is generally much better for the earlier period than the latter one.

None of the books which depict the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is perfect. Elusive Peace] is iirc a relatively straight narrative but dull as hell, while [[ASIN:0553384147 The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace is interesting but eccentric, unabashedly telling the story the author's POV.

For the path ahead, the best and most articulate polemic is Hussein Ibish's What's Wrong with the One-State Agenda? Why Ending the Occupation and Peace with Israel is Still the Palestinian National Goal - which may be freely available on the net.

So, to conclude: The best read and the best history is the Fromkin book, followed by the Oren one.

the Tyler one will give you a decent overview and is also well written, but remember that it is tilted to one side.

Hope that helps.


Posted on Jul 21, 2013 10:03:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 21, 2013 10:11:41 AM PDT
JayWhite says:
Any claim by the fictitious "Palestinians" to sovereignty and a right to establish a nation in any part of Palestine Mandate is as fictional and illegal as their claim to having any connection to Palestine before the 20th century.The country of Palestine was created in April 1920 at the San Remo Peace Conference for one purpose only - to be the Jewish National Home, and the term "Occupied Palestinian Territory" is thus an oxymoron since Palestine was never intended to be an Arab land under international law now supposedly "occupied" by Israel, but rather was always intended to be a Jewish land that was to reconstitute the ancient Jewish State of Judea destroyed by Rome in the first century C.E.

It takes staggering ignorance or ingrained hostility to the Jewish People and Zionism to believe that the land known to the Jews as Eretz-Israel since the time of Joshua Bin-Nun, long before it was called Palestine, belongs to the local Arab inhabitants who have falsely re-branded themselves as "Palestinians".

According to international law there cannot be "Israel-Occupied Palestinian Territory". I would highly recommend that you read the pronouncements made by two eminent British statesmen who were instrumental in creating Palestine as the Jewish National Home and future independent Jewish State, namely, Prime Minister David Lloyd George and Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour, as well as those of Balfour's successor, Lord Curzon, who did not favor the concept of Zionism but nevertheless admitted that Palestine was to become a Jewish country.

I would also recommend that you read the statements made at the San Remo Peace Conference at the two sessions of April 24 and April 25, 1920 dealing with Palestine by the French Prime Minister Alexandre Millerand and the Director of the French Foreign Ministry, Philippe Berthelot, who, though vehemently opposed to establishing Palestine as a Jewish State, nevertheless conceded that was the actual purpose of the Balfour Declaration that was adopted in a new format by means of the San Remo Resolution that henceforth became part of international law and the foundation document of the State of Israel. The principles and norms of international law evidence the fact that an undivided Palestine was to be established as a Jewish State, without the creation of an Arab state in any part of the country. The proof that the Jewish National Homeland constitutes present day Israel, Judea and Samaria which constitutes "Occupied Palestinian Territory", western Jordan , southern Lebanon from the current northern border of Israel up to the Litani River and the Golan Heights is based solidly on the texts of various acts of international law that were approved by all the victorious Allied powers that dismantled the Ottoman Empire, including three prominent states of the European Union today, namely: Britain, France and Italy.

Upon the re-birth of the Jewish State on May 15, 1948, Jewish legal rights to Palestine were devolved upon the State of Israel. Whatever you may think, those rights never lapsed, were never annulled or voided and never validly or legally transferred to an Arab people known as "Palestinians", as you so wrongly assume. Moreover, subsequent events - such as the 1947 Partition Resolution, Security Council Resolution 242, the Israel-PLO Agreements or the Road Map Peace Plan - have not superseded or curtailed the rights of the Jewish People to former Mandated Palestine, since none of those documents constitute acts of binding international law, despite the impression given to the contrary by advocates of the Arab "Palestinian" cause, including leading officials of the UN, European Union and its bureaucratic apparatus, the US State Department or other anti-Jewish racist entities.

Anti-Jewish individuals ,governments , UN related bodies, non-governmental organizations etc. cannot interpret the acts and provisions of international law as well as the legal principles and norms to further their bigoted and racist campaign to destroy the Jewish people. An interpretation of a specific law or that of an international agreement or treaty is only required when their plain meaning is unclear or ambiguous.

That is certainly not the case for the relevant documents of international law pertaining to the legal status of former Mandated Palestine and Jewish legal rights thereto. You ought to open your mind to the legal truth that you have never learnt or assimilated and the accompanying legal facts which underpin and confirm the ironclad Jewish case to the Land of Israel.

Any resolution adopted by the Security Council or General Assembly recognizing "Palestinian" statehood would be blatantly illegal in violation of its own Charter (specifically Article 80) and also beyond the authority of both these UN organs.

Article 80 preserves intact the rights of the Jewish People granted under the Mandate for Palestine , and those rights could not be altered in any way unless there had been an intervening trusteeship agreement between the parties concerned. No such agreement was ever made during the three year period from 1945 to 1948 when it was possible to make this kind of agreement and it is now too late to do so. Therefore all Jewish rights under the Mandate remain in full force today, including in particular the right to establish new Jewish settlements in any part of former Mandated Palestine under effective Israeli control.

All UN bodies and agencies are obliged or bound by Article 80 and therefore the UN cannot legally prevent the Jews of Israel from exercising their rights or interfering with them that were recognized under the Mandate, or transfer those rights to a non-Jewish entity such as the "Palestinian" Authority.

All of Palestine was reserved or assigned exclusively for the Jewish National Home on April 25, 1920 upon the adoption of the San Remo Resolution. and no part of the land was allotted for an Arab National Home or State since Arab self determination was being granted elsewhere in Syria, Iraq, Arabia and North Africa. The borders for the Jewish Homeland (as I described above) were decided on Dec. 23rd. 1920.

Moreover, the UN is not the sovereign of the land we call Eretz-Israel where a new Arab state is to be established contrary to existing international law. The UN has no authority or power to divide the land for the purpose of creating this new Arab "Palestinian" state.

Apart from that fact, there is no provision in the UN Charter, which is an international treaty, that gives the UN the power to create a new state, or to allot territory to create such a state especially in the case where the land in question belongs to the Jewish People.

If the UN had such power, then logically it would also have the inverse power to "de-create" or dismember an existing state, a power it certainly does not hold under the UN Charter.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2013 1:16:44 PM PDT
Omer Belsky says:
I think this is copy/pasted from here: It has nothing whatsoever to do with my review.


Posted on Jun 16, 2014 12:07:29 AM PDT
SK says:
You fall over backwards trying to defend the Arab position while being hypercritical of the Israelis. It is not worth my time correcting all your errors.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 16, 2014 12:33:20 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 16, 2014 12:34:41 AM PDT
Omer Belsky says:
Well, you might try to correct "some" errors, If you can :-)
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