By Claude Garrod September 19, 2010
In 1984 a woman named Joan Peters wrote a book, called "From Time Immemorial," in which she claimed to prove from historical records that Palestine was an essentially empty land when European Jews started moving in and that what are now called Palestinians are descendants of illegal immigrants from the surrounding Arab countries, attracted to the area by the Jewish economic development. In the following year a number of American and Israeli scholars debunked the book and exposed it as basically a fraud. They clearly showed that the Arabs living in what is now Israel/Palestine in 1948, most of whom either fled in fear (that's what wars do) or were methodically driven out, were essentially the direct descendents of those people living in the same area in 1850, before the Zionist influx. Typical of the disparaging comments on the book by scholars is that of Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, professor of religion at Dartmouth College and vice president of the World Jewish Congress,: ''I think that she's cooked the statistics. I think the right-wingers in Israel have an interest in cooking the statistics. The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes.'' One of the best clear but short descriptions of the actual early demographics of Palestine can be found in a review of the book by Yehoshua Porath, Professor of Near-Eastern History at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and available online at: davispeace.org/porath.
I bring this all up because, in a recent Enterprise letter, Al Sokolow has regurgitated all the contrafactual nonsense from Peters' book. In particular, he states: "The people today called 'Palestinians' have not lived in this land for 'hundreds of years'; they are relatively recent arrivals from other parts of the Mideast." Now if I wrote such stuff, I might be excused, being a physicist and not a political scientist, but Al Sokolow is a Professor of Political Science. He shouldn't be saying such junk.
He also states that "Gaza was not 'bombed to bits' . . ." Let me quote from the major Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, of 6/21/2010: "The amount of destruction there was incomprehensible," said one soldier. "You go through the neighborhoods there and you can't identify anything. No stone is left unturned. You see rows of fields, hothouses, orchards, and it's all in ruins. Everything is completely destroyed. You see a pink room with a poster of Barbie, and a shell that went through a meter and a half below it."
A third statement of Sokolow's, "There is no 'brutal Israeli occupation' in the West Bank . ." and, from Haarets of 9/14/2010, "A new report by the human rights group B'tselem concludes that during the past four years not a single IDF soldier was indicted for killing Palestinian civilians in the territories. The report claims that between 2006 and 2009, 617 Palestinian civilians not involved in combat operations were killed in the territories - a count that does not include those killed during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip."