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A s close observers of the century-old conflict between the Zionist movement and the Arab residents of Palestine increasingly understand, the Zionist narrative is riddled with historical mythologies that do not stand up under close and dispassionate examination. But these myths have had the devastating consequence of blinding Israelis—and their unthinking Americansupporters —totheirownroleinthenever-endingIsraeli-Palestinianconflict,aswellas in the wider Arab-Israeli conflict. To be sure, the Palestinians and the Arabs as a whole have their own historical mythologies , and it is obvious that Israel does not bear all the blame for the ongoing conflict. Still, it istheIsraelimythologies,largelyacceptedbymostAmericans,whichhavebeenthegreater obstacle to a peace settlement, especially in recent years. Before 2000, three major mythologies were refuted by serious historians and journalists —mostofthemIsraeli.First,therewasthemyththatin1948aweakIsraeliarmy(David) heroically overcame a strong Arab army (Goliath) that intended to destroy the new Jewish state; in fact, the Israeli armies outnumbered and outgunned a small coalition of halfhearted Arab armies, whose primary purpose was to prevent each other from grabbing off pieces of Palestine, rather than to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Second, there was the myth thathundredsofthousandsofPalestinianrefugeesvoluntarilyfledtheirhomesandvillages in 1947-48; the evidence is overwhelming that the main reason the Palestinians fled was eitheroutofthejustifiedfeartheymightbemassacred,ashadhappenedatDeirYassinand elsewhere, or because the Zionist armed forces rounded them up and forced them across thebordersintoEgypt,Lebanon,Jordan,andSyria.Third,therewasthemyththatboththe Palestinians and their Arab neighbors “never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity” to reachpeacefulpoliticalsettlementswithIsrael;infactitisIsraelthathasrepeatedlyturned down real opportunities for peaceful settlements—with Egypt until the 1970s, with Jordan until the 1980s, and with the Palestinians, Syria, and the Arab world as a whole today. Inallthesecases,Israel’sleadingenemies,aswellastheArabLeague,representingmost Arab countries, were and still are ready not only to end their conflict with the Jewish state buttonormalizediplomaticandeconomicrelationswithit,inexchangeforfullIsraeliwithdrawalfromtheGolanHeights ,theWestBank,Gaza,andArabEastJerusalem,followedby the creation of an independent Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Consequently , the main reason for the continuation of Israel’s conflict with the Arab world (other 46 T I K K U N W W W. T I K K U N . O R G N O V E M B E R / D E C E M B E R 2 0 0 8 The Irresponsibility of Thomas Friedman by Jerome Slater [Editor’s Note: Jerome Slater’s critique of Thomas Friedman raises important questions about the role of journalists in mis-shaping public understanding of the Israel/Palestine struggle. As we have repeatedly argued in Tikkun, the mistakes made in the creation and perpetuation of that struggle come from both sides, and any historical reading must acknowledge the continued propensity on both sides to engage in acts of violence. Palestinian extremists and terrorists are culpable too—not just Israelis. Because this magazine emerges from the West, where Israel’s side of the story is well known and largely accepted blindly , while the Palestinian side is systematically kept from public consideration, we have often tried to re-balance the story by presenting the facts that the American media and the cheerleaders for the right wing in Israel have kept out of public view. Slater’s critique of Thomas Friedman is part of that effort. In 2003 Tikkun published the book Healing Israel/Palestine in which we try to give a more fully balanced account of the struggle, recognizing that both sides have full culpability for the origin and continuation of the struggle, and we are proud to say that the book is as relevant today as it was when we first published it. Saying that does not diminish the importance of Slater’s challenging of the deep misunderstandings of the situation perpetrated in Western media— misunderstandings which continue to constrain the possibilities of rational pro-peace intervention by the United States.] Jerome Slater is the University Research Scholar at SUNY/Buffalo. He writes regularly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and other foreign policy issues for professional journals, and is the author of many articles in Tikkun. AP PHOTO/MTI,ZSOLT SZIGETVARY The author argues that Thomas Friedman, above, has perpetrated untruthful mythologies that are harmful to Israeli / Palestinian peace prospects. Politics_3.qxd:Politics 11/5/08 1:35 PM Page 46 than with Egypt) is that Israel has refused to withdraw...


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