I had the “pleasure” of meeting Susan Abulhawa while monitoring a Friends of Sabeel conference outside Philadelphia in 2008, during a breakout session on Defeating the Zionist Narrative – where I was subsequently “outed”, by Adam Horowitz (now of Mondoweiss fame) from the American Friends Service Committee, as a “Zionist.”
Undeterred, I remained in the session and, thankfully, was able to glean some vital insights into how the anti-Israel left advances their cause and agitates against the existence of the Jewish state.
I can still recall the feeling of that lion’s den, of preparing for battle after being “accused” of the sin of Zionism, and how effortlessly (even artfully) the pejorative use of that term rolled off the tongue of my interlocutors on that mild spring day.
The Feb 26th Guardian review of Abulhawa’s novel, Mornings in Jenin, by Nicola Barr, contained this introductory passage:
In the 1948 nakba, the “catastrophe” that was the invasion of Palestine leading to the founding of Israel, a baby boy is snatched from his Palestinian mother by an Israeli soldier and delivered to his wife, to be brought up hating Palestinians. Then he meets his twin brother. It’s a simple and artful conceit to humanise the cruelty of the Palestinian plight. And interestingly, Abulhawa chooses not to make it the centre of her novel. Rather, Mornings in Jenin is the story of Amal, the twin boys’ sister. Orphaned and injured in the 1967 war, she leaves the Jenin refugee camp in which she has grown up for a Jerusalem orphanage, and then faces her early adult years alone in Pennsylvania. She becomes Amy (“Amal without the hope”), and on her return to Lebanon falls in love, only to meet with further tragedy and heartbreak. This is a brave, sad book that tells the story of a nation and a people through tales of ordinary lives lived in extraordinary circumstances. Unsensational, at times even artless, it has a documentary feel that allows events to speak for themselves, and is all the more moving for it. [emphasis mine]
While the demonization of Israel, and Israelis, in Abulhawa’s novel (based on that snippet), requires little analysis, the Guardian writer’s casual assertion that Israel’s birth was the result of the “invasion” of “Palestine” is one of those reckless throw-away lines which – I recall – Abulhawa herself advanced in service of defeating the “Zionist narrative” during our previous encounter.
Of course, there was not, in 1948 (nor at any time in history), a state of “Palestine.”
The land she speaks of - occupied by the British until 1948, and by the Ottoman Turkish Empire before WWI – was invaded by five Arab armies on the day Israel declared independence on the tiny portion of their ancient homeland where they were legally entitled to do so by virtue of UN Resolution 181, which created two states, one Jewish, one Arab (Palestinian).
The “invasion” which Barr speaks of consisted of a combined force of armies from Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan, and Egypt who rejected Jewish sovereignty in the region within any borders, and launched their assault in hopes of destroying the nascent Jewish state on the day of its birth.
The stubborn refusal of Israelis (three years after one our of every three Jews were murdered in the Holocaust) to meekly accept the fate wished upon them by the Arab world resulted in their survival within slightly more defensible boundaries (The 1949 Armistice Lines), new borders which contained ample territory for a Palestinian state – a nation, which, for some reason, Arab governments who took control of this territory (Jordan and Egypt) showed absolutely no interest in creating in the subsequent 18 years they had control of this land.
While the Guardian shouldn’t be expected to, heaven forbid, advance the “Zionist narrative”, they should be expected to at least avoid the reckless disregard for fundamental historical truths concerning Israel’s birth, and Palestinian statelessness.
However, while its vital that those with the interest and strength to resist such relentless efforts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy grapple with, and master, such facts, I honestly, at this stage, no longer expect Guardian writers to take my concerns about the historical inaccuracies about Israel’s creation which they continually peddle seriously.
I am, after all, a Zionist.