Sunday, January 11, 2015

Joan Peters, z’l: a true Jewish hero

Joan Peters is dead. She left this world on Tuesday, January 5/6, 2015, age 76.

We cannot mourn her enough.

In 1984, Joan Peters published a book called, From Time Immemorial. That book was about the Arab-Israel conflict.

That book, for the anti-Israel Left, was a horror story.

You see, the book didn’t fit the narrative that Leftist historians had begun to build about the Arab-Israel conflict.  It didn’t demonize Israel. It didn’t ennoble the Arab refuge. It didn’t conform to the Arab narrative.

Instead, it committed a horrible academic crime: it said that Arab leadership, cynicism and Jew-hate were responsible for the Arab refuge problem. It said that, although some Israelis had committed some crimes, the Arab refugee problem hadn’t been caused by Israel. It said that the Arab problem certainly hadn’t been caused by Israeli cruelty or selfishness, as the Arab narrative claimed. The Arabs themselves had created the problem, not the Jews.

When her book was published, academic reviewers attacked it—and her. The reviews were vicious. They claimed she didn’t do proper research. She cherry-picked facts. She didn’t search out Arab source material. She presented only the Israeli side.

They said she distorted fact. She misrepresented truth. She didn’t tell the ‘real’ story.

In the opinion of some, those reviewers were hypocrites. They accused her of committing for Jews all of the academic malpractice that they had themselves committed on behalf of the Arab narrative. She had turned the tables on them. She had used their own techniques to do for Jews what they had done for the Arab.

How dare she do that? How dare she defend the demon Israel? How dare she insult them that way?

She wasn’t even an historian.

She was a journalist.

She’d been struck by the plight of Arab refugees. She felt their pain. She wanted to write about their humanitarian suffering.  She felt that ‘the deprivation of Arab refugees’ human rights, and the political manipulation of their unfortunate situation’ appeared ‘to be unconscionable’ to her (From Time Immemorial, JKAP Publications, USA, 1984, p.3).

At first, she saw these displaced Arabs as an appealing, victimized people who remained displaced--with too few options to correct their ‘civil wound’ (ibid, p. 4). She wanted to tell their story.

She started researching. As a journalist, she understood how to do that. What she found at first surprised her. Then it disturbed her.

For example, she discovered that, since around 1948 (the year modern Israel was born), ‘whole Jewish populations from numerous Arab countries had been forced to flee as refugees’ (ibid, p.4). She discovered that no one had been interested in these Jewish refugees. They had been interested only in the Arab refugees.

The number of both refugee groups—Arab and Jew—was, she discovered, about the same. But then, she also discovered that the population count for the Arab refugees had been, she suggested, inflated.

She discovered that the term, ‘refugee’ had been redefined. But that redefinition was applied only to the Arab refugee—and to no one else. She discovered that only these Arabs were allowed to remain with a uniquely ‘permanent’ refugee status.

Jewish refugees reintegrated into other countries, including Israel. The Arab refugees remained trapped in squalid, permanent ‘camps’.

She wanted to know, why was it necessary to amend the definition of ‘refugee’ for the Arabs?  She wanted to know, why are these Arabs so often described as ‘victims of Israel’s existence?’ (ibid, p.6). Why did they alone remain ‘permanent’ refugees?

Why didn’t they reintegrate into nearby Arab countries?

For Joan Peters, what began as a look at the plight of Arab refugees led to a concentrated reflection upon the lengths to which Arabs were willing to go in order to express their hostility towards a Jewish state (ibid, p. 7). That hostility, she discovered, was responsible for many wrongs, including a deliberate and “cruel indifference to the well-being of their own brethren” (ibid).

You know what her problem was? She wasn’t an academician. She wasn’t a historian.  She wasn’t a Leftist duped (or self-duped) into supporting a fiction about the origins and nature of the Arab-Israel war. She was just a journalist trying to find answers.  

She offended the real historians and academicians.  She wasn’t a professional, as they were. She didn’t stick to the accepted sources, as they did. To them, she was nothing more than a damn shill for the damn Jews who ran the damn Israel.

If you read these reviews, you could easily conclude that she was a stupid, demented woman--a propagandist for the evil Israel. But she was none of these things.  She was a Jewish hero.

 She revealed the truth about the ‘Arab narrative’. Her sin was, she wrote about that truth. She had the unmitigated gall to tell that truth.

Now, more than thirty years later, almost all of what she wrote has proven true. What she wrote in 1984 still rings true. When you read this book, she wrote, “the events in today’s [1984] headlines can be understood and evaluated” properly when you understand the anti-Israel context in which they occur (ibid, p.9). That is as true in 2015 as it was thirty-one years ago.

Her book has withstood the test of time.
Joan Peters, you return to your Creator. You have served Him well. May HaShem, the Creator of the Universe, comfort you for the hate heaped upon you. May HaShem, Creator of the Universe, comfort your husband and your family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

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