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A Death in Jerusalem Paperback – March 11, 1996
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"A Death in Jerusalem" is worthwhile because it is skillfully constructed, richly detailed and beautifully written. In many respects, it is a real triumph. It is maddening because, from beginning to end, its themes are held hostage to political correctness.
One example makes my point plain. The book touches upon three sets of politically-motivated "killings": The 1948 invasion of the new state of Israel by its neighbors; Ben-Gurion's directive to shell the Irgun supply-ship, the "Altelana, killing jewish sailors as they made their way onto the Tel Aviv beach;" and the (central tale of the book) the assassination of U.N. Mediator Count Bernadotte. Only the last item keeps the author's contempt and condemnation. The other events -- each far wider in the scale of their violence and bloodshed -- earn disapproving sneers from Marton, but not much more.
The underlying message is unmistakably clear: When right-wing Jews use a gun, the act reveals the depth of human villainy. When left-wing Jews, or Arabs, use a gun ( ... or a howitzer ) well, everyone knows, sometimes bad things happen.
Independent-minded readers will spot this kind of reasoning as clunky, undignified and, well, stupid.
And that is sad. "A Death in Jerusalem" has an incredibly rich storyline, whose difficult ambiguities, tensions and grey areas make the tale worth telling all the more; not less.
So, readers should buy and read this book. Just be sure to pick out the villains for yourself.
During the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s a series of Arab pogroms against Jewish towns and people resulted in the massacres of hundreds if not thousands of Jews. This followed a pattern of abuse and discrimination which dominated much of the Arab world for 1,000 years. Both sets of historical facts have been obfuscated today by reporters like Marton. The thousands of Jews who stayed in Palestine during two millenia after its Roman conquest were always subject to oppression--just like Jews who had fled to Arab lands.
There, Jews remained a minority and were often (though not always) oppressed--subject to periodic massacres, rapes, dispersion and other horrors. This is well documented in many sources, including (but not limited to) Saul Friedman's superb Land of Dust (1982); Ariei Avneri's The Claim Of Dispossession (1982); Samuel Katz' Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine (1st ed., 1973); and Kenneth Stein's Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939 (1987).
All but one of these books predated Joan Peters' unfairly, much-maligned From Time Immemorial (1984) and while they cited many different and varied sources, reached the same valid conclusions as did she. A former journalist and peace negotiator, Joan Peters conducted an exhaustive seven-year inquiry in more than 1,800 Turkish, British, Arab, American, French and other sources, as well as first hand interviews.
Another excellent volume that came after Peters', by the late scholar, diplomat, and Irish politician Conor Cruise O'Brien, The Siege.
Marton, on the other hand, revises history, accepting the false thesis that Palestinians were peace-loving victims of Jewish aggressors, while ignoring voluminous Arab hate and propaganda-- like that still emanating from Palestinian Authority-controlled media and mosques. One October, 2000, Gaza sermon for example exhorted Muslims to "kill the Jews"... "where ever you find them."
A December 1, 2000 Al Aksa sermon similarly proclaimed that Israel had offered only 10% of the West Bank to the Palestinians--of which Israel in fact offered 90%--and also exhorted Muslims to "liberate Palestine" from Jewish "infidels." Was it really worth sending children to fight for the rest? Marton would undoubtedly not bother to ask this question.
Arafat [never wanted] peace, according to Saudi-educated Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi. "[After] Oslo the tone of the PNA media has never changed," according to Palazzi, "the number of yearly victims of [Arab] terrorism is not decreased, Arafat [el-Husseini] has not refrained from declaring it is a temporary truce, and PNA officials have not even amended their charter [which still calls to Israel's destruction]."
Marton would have us believe this is all the fault of evil Jews. If only they had been less aggressive, none of this would have happened. But defense is not aggression. And Israeli defense, though sometimes at fault, has never come close to that of her Arab enemies. Marton should eliminate her sermonizing and stick to the facts.
---Alyssa A. Lappen