By Karmel Melamed
UCLA’s Daily Bruin
May 19, 2003
As a reporter who has traveled to and covered the news in the Middle East, I was utterly shocked and disturbed by Rebecca Steinfeld’s presentation of inaccurate historical facts and uncalled-for criticism of the Bruins for Israel (“Israeli independence also a Palestinian catastrophe,” May 9).
Through a series of distorted historical facts, she incorrectly portrays the Palestinian and Arab people of 1948 as innocent and with “clean hands” mere “victims” of supposed Jewish aggression. This image of the Palestinians is completely inaccurate, as they were involved in numerous bloody massacres against the Jews between 1920 and 1948.
One prime example, reported by Rabbi Dov Cohen, who witnessed this pogrom and was interviewed by the Israeli news outlet, Arutz Sheva in August of 1999, said there was a three-day slaughter of 67 Jews in the city of Hebron, which began on August 23, 1929, by their Palestinian neighbors.
Likewise, Steinfeld repeatedly points to supposed historical facts from various UCLA and Israeli historians, who obviously have hidden agendas or axes to grind against Israel.
For instance, she refers to the massacre of the people in the Arab village of Deir Yassin by Israeli soldiers. While covering the Middle East, I researched this event and found it to be greatly exaggerated by biased Arab sympathizers and historians.
In Mitchell Bard’s “Myths & Facts, a Guide to the Arab Israeli Conflict,” Bard states, “A study by BirZeit University, based on discussions with each family from the village (Deir Yassin), arrived at a figure of 107 Arab civilians dead and 12 wounded, in addition to 13 fighters, evidence that the number of dead was smaller than claimed and that the village did have troops based there.”
Also, a 1998 BBC program, “Israel and the Arabs: The 50 Year Conflict, indicated that Hazam Nusseibi, who worked for the Palestine Broadcasting Service in 1948, admitted being told by Hussein Khalidi, a Palestinian Arab leader, to fabricate the atrocity claims (at Deir Yassin). “Most importantly, Bard points to the fact there were no rapes of Palestinian women, and that some civilians living in Deir Yassin were even evacuated by Israeli troops during the attack. Since civilians were being helped by Israelis, this dispels any notion of a “massacre”. Those civilians who were killed were caught in the crossfire of Arab soldiers hiding among the civilian population and dressing like women, according to Bard.
In addition, Steinfeld claims it would be intellectually dishonest not to acknowledge the attacks on Palestinians by the Jews in 1948. I ask why she has been intellectually dishonest by failing to mention the other 1948 massacres against the Jews living in the Arab countries.
According to historian Arieh Avneri’s 1984 book, “The Claim of Dispossession: Jewish Land Settlement and the Arabs, 1878-1948,” from 1948 up to the early 1970s there were more than 800,000 Jews (living in the Arab countries of Morocco, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen) who were murdered and/or raped, and many had their properties taken away by the Arab governments they lived under. Where is Steinfeld’s outrage and cry for them? When will they get their justice and money back?
The truth of the matter is they will never get it, and their only hope for survival was and is Israel. That is why Jews and the Bruins for Israel celebrate the independence of their own Jewish homeland. These Jews have been the real victims: they suffered oppression from the Arab and Muslim populations they lived under for centuries. They never had their own Jewish homeland until Israel, and before that, they were unwanted throughout the world.
The Palestinians, whether they were supposedly expelled or fled their homes, deserve our sympathy, not because of what Israel supposedly did to them, but because of what their own government (headed by Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority) has done to them over the past 10 years since the Oslo Accords. Steinfeld claims the Palestinians “continue to live and die under the brutal and illegal Israeli occupation,” but hasn’t the mistreatment of Palestinians by Arafat’s own dictatorship been a factor in their plight?
Why has Arafat and the Palestinian Authority continued to keep the Palestinian people starving in rundown refugee camps when the government has had millions in U.S. and European Union aid to build homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure? Again, where is Steinfeld’s outrage for the thousands of Palestinians who have been mistreated by their own leadership?
Again and again, it is easy to blame Israel for the plight of the Palestinian people when their own leadership and the Arab world has done more injustice to them than anyone else. If there is anyone to blame for the Palestinian misery, it is the Palestinians’ own leadership, which over the past 10 years has chosen a path of war, terrorism and death instead of peaceful co-existence.
Lastly, how dare Steinfeld challenge Israel’s right to defend its citizens against the disgusting terror attacks perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority. There is no justification for such terrorist attacks against innocent Jewish men, women, and children.
Suppose Mexico and its government perpetrated terrorist bombings against U.S. nationals living in Los Angeles. Would we in the United States stand for it? No, we’d fight terror just as our government has since Sept. 11, 2001.
The celebration of the independence of the State of Israel is a modern miracle of biblical portions. It is not just a victory for the Jews, but a victory for those who love freedom and democracy. Israel’s creation marked one of the few times in history when Christians, Muslims and Jews were all free to pray and practice their faiths in a land holy to all three religions. This is why many Americans, regardless of their faith, celebrate the 55 years of Israel’s establishment.
I call on UCLA students to challenge the liberal, one-sided bias against Israel from your professors and fellow students and ask for the other side, because it’s not exactly as clean cut as they’d have you believe. The Arab people are as guilty, if not more, for this bloody conflict in the Middle East.
This op/ed article was originally published by the Daily Bruin, the official student newspaper for the University of California Los Angeles: