Sunday, July 03, 2005

When history is a matter of opinion

In the summer 2005 issue of the Jewish Quarterly the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug and Professor Robert Wistrich of the Hebrew University debate antisemitism and anti-Zionism.

Wistrich challenges Klug's assertion that 'Israel is resented as an interloper and an outpost of the West, at odds with the rest of the region':

'Jews are an aboriginal people returning to their historical homeland and source of national indentity. Not only that, but over half the Israeli population is not 'European' at all. It was uprooted from the Arab Middle East by exclusivist pan-Arabism, Islamic fanaticism and the pressures of decolonisation. Yet 60 years ago there were more than a million Jews in Arab lands. Their exodus says it all. Israeli integrated them, providing a haven, pride, dignity and freedom as it did for the Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Palestinian refugees, on the other hand, were left to rot in UN refugee camps by their Arab brethren.'

Klug replies as follows:

"(To regard Israel as an interloper or an outpost of the West) is one-sided: it is how the Jewish state is looked at through Arab eyes. The view that the Jews are an aboriginal people returning to their historical homeland' is a Jewish point of view.

"(..) Both sides also give partisan accounts. You say that the exodus of Jews from Arab lands 'says it all' and you excoriate the Arab states for the plight of the Palestinians. but there is an alternative narrative that blames Israel or Zionism on both counts. I can imagine someone from 'the other side' agreeing that the Jewish exodus 'says it all' - but meaning the opposite of what you mean."

In other words, in the strange postmodern world inhabited by Brian Klug, there is no such thing as objective truth. History is a matter of competing narratives. Yes, there was an exodus of Jews from Arab countries, but Israel or Zionism is guilty of causing it.

One would not for a moment imagine that Klug and other leftist anti-Zionists would attempt to deny or cherrypick the facts of the Holocaust - why then should Arab responsibility for the Jewish exodus be a matter of opinion?

No comments: