A couple of weeks ago, there was an article in the NY Times by Palestinian president Abbas. I was troubled by it because, having done the research for “O Jerusalem” by Larry Collins and Dominque Lapierre, I was familiar with the events of 1948 and frankly felt the article was self- serving and not factual. So I am thankful that Prof. Shlomo Avineri took it on to separate truth from “narrative,” in this Ha’aretz op-ed:
…. it is a fact, not a “narrative” — that in 1947, the Zionist movement accepted the United Nations partition plan, whereas the Arab side rejected it and went to war against it. A decision to go to war has consequences….
The importance of this distinction becomes clear upon perusing the op-ed that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently published in The New York Times. Abbas mentioned the partition decision in his article, but said not one single word about the facts — who accepted it and who rejected it. He merely wrote that “Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs.”
That is like those Germans who talk about the horrors of the expulsion of 12 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe after 1945, but fail to mention the Nazi attack on Poland, or the Japanese who talk about Hiroshima, but fail to mention their attack on Pearl Harbor. That is not a “narrative,” it is simply not telling the truth. Effects cannot be divorced from causes.
The pain of the other should be understood and respected, and attempts to prevent Palestinians from mentioning the Nakba are foolish and immoral….
But just as nobody, even in German schools, would dream of teaching the German “narrative” regarding World War II, the 1948 war should also not be taught as a battle between narratives. In the final analysis, there is a historical truth. And without ignoring the suffering of the other, that is how such sensitive issues must be taught.
One can read Avineri’s entire article online here:
http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-truth-should-be-taught-about-the-1948-war-1.368167. Please click on this link, or copy and paste the address into a browser window.