Joan Peters and the Perils of Challenging the Palestinian Narrative

COMMENTARY
by Jonathan Tobin
January 13, 2015

Peters’s intention was to write a book sympathetic to the Palestinian refugees. But in the course of her research, she stumbled across an important fact that had hitherto received no notice from Westerners who opined about the Arab-Israeli conflict: though the Arabs claim to have possessed Palestine for many centuries, a significant percentage of their population in 1948 could trace their origins to immigrants who crossed into what is now Israel during the last years of Ottoman rule and during the era of the British Mandate for Palestine. The idea that Arabs rather than just Jews arrived in the country during the period when Jews were working to build it up contradicts the basic conceit of all attacks on Zionism.

Instead of the Palestinians losing a country that had been theirs “from time immemorial,” this revelation placed both sides in the conflict on a somewhat equal footing. If a great many of those Arab refugees who fled the country during Israel’s War of Independence were, at best, second-generation immigrants to Palestine then surely it would not have been so difficult to reintegrate them into other Arab countries just as Jewish refugees from Arab countries were resettled in Israel. But to admit that not all Palestinian refugees had roots going back for many centuries to what had become the State of Israel undermined the basic critique of Zionism. READ MORE

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