The Jewish State

June 26, 1998

Sir, - It is always easier to blame others for self-inflicted disasters, and Robin Yassin-Kassab (Letters, June 12) is no exception to this rule. Fifty years after the 1948 war, the author still refuses to recognize the fact that the Palestinian tragedy could have easily been averted had their leadership accepted the UN General Assembly Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947, rather than launch an all-out war against the Jewish community of Mandatory Palestine merely three years after the slaughter of sixmillion Jews in the Holocaust.

In the opinion of Yassin-Kassab, the sole responsibility for the Palestinian exodus lies with the so-called "Jewish terror campaign". Nothing could be further from the truth. There were no less gruesome Palestine atrocities against the Jewish community - the Deir Yasin massacre, for example, was followed within days by the slaughter of dozens of Jewish nurses and doctors in Jerusalem. Moreover, Jewish fatalities in the war were heavier than those of the Palestinians - and yet there was no mass Jewish flight remotely reminiscent of that of the Palestinians. Which leads to the conclusion that, more than anything, the Palestinian exodus was a result of the total collapse of Palestinian society, betrayed by its leading classes. Even before the Deir Yasin tragedy, some 100,000 Palestinians, or 8 per cent of the total population, had already fled the country, though the scales were still tilted in their favour. Would Britain have survived the Second World War if Winston Churchill had fled the country together with 4,000,000 of the classes and groups that mattered most - the political, military, social, administrative, economic and cultural elites? As the British High Commissioner for Palestine, General Sir Alan Cunningham, informed Colonial Secretary Arthur Creech-Jones, in a typical British understatement: You should know that the collapsing Arab morale in Palestine is in some measure due to the increasing tendency of those who should be leading them to leave the country . . . . Many of their so-called leaders are fleeing the country and the effendi class generally do not seem to be ashamed of watching the contest from the touchline . . . . Wherever the Arabs are in contact with the Jews their morale has practically collapsed and we are finding increasing difficulty in bolstering them up.

As I have already argued elsewhere, the Palestinian claim to national self-determination is as good as any, and needs no buttressing from mobilized historical fabrication. Securing the future means coming to terms with one's past, however painful that might be - not distorting or denying it.

EFRAIM KARSH School of Humanities, King's College London, Strand, London WC2.

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