In the famous Jewish definition, the term “chutzpah” is best illustrated by the story of the man who, having been convicted of killing both his parents, pleads for mercy on the ground that he is an orphan. That can’t be topped, but we now have a new second-best illustration: Efraim Karsh, one of the most infuriating and disingenuous of the rightwing Israeli historians, shedding crocodile tears for the poor Palestinians, repeatedly betrayed by their Arab brethren.
Here are just a few examples of Karsh’s chutzpah, in his oped in today’s New York Times, “The Palestinians, Alone”:
*“It was common knowledge that the May 1948 pan-Arab invasion of the nascent state of Israel was more a scramble for Palestinian territory than a fight for Palestinian national rights.” Karsh quotes the first secretary-general of the Arab League as having admitted that the goal of King Abdullah of Transjordan “was to swallow up the central hill regions of Palestine, with access to the Mediterranean at Gaza. The Egyptians would get the Negev. Galilee would go to Syria, except that the coastal part as far as Acre would be added to the Lebanon.”
But if that is true, it serves to refute the standard Israeli claim that the purpose of the Arab invasion was to destroy the new state of Israel and “throw the Jews into the sea.” Unsurprisingly, Karsh fails to point that out, since the myth of permanent and undying Arab hostility to the very existence of Israel is a staple of those who, like Karsh, find unending excuses for the demonstrable fact that Israel has repeatedly rejected clear opportunities for an overall Arab-Israeli peace settlement.
*Writing about Arab violence against Palestinians, Karsh says that Lebanese Christian militias “again slaughtered hundreds of Palestinians in 1982 in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila, this time under Israel’s watchful eye. None of the Arab states came to the Palestinians’ rescue.”
“Under Israel’s watchful eye”—well, I guess that’s one way of putting it. Most other accounts are more informative, however: it is common knowledge that the Sabra and Shatila massacres were a product of—at a minimum—the tacit collaboration, and much more likely the active encouragement of, the Israeli Army, then under the direction of Ariel Sharon. Camped just outside the refugee camps, fully aware of what was happening, and with the military capacity to end the massacres, the IDF took no action—except, that is, for firing illuminating flares over the camps throughout the nighttime slaughter. A subsequent high-level Israeli investigation found that Israel had “indirect responsibility”—and Ariel Sharon “personal responsibility”--for the massacre, which made him unfit to continue as Defense Minister.
*Karsh concludes that it’s a good thing for the Palestinians that the Arabs have now “apparently become so apathetic about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” for their previous “self-serving interventionism has denied Palestinians the right to determine their own fate….The sooner the Palestinians recognize that their cause is theirs alone, the sooner they are likely to make peace with the existence of the State of Israel and to understand the need for a negotiated settlement.”
Can one find a more disingenuous “explanation” of why there has been no settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? And, wearily, one must once ask again why the New York Times lends itself to such travesties?