Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Historiography of the Historians. I'm about two weeks into studies right now (which is why blogging has been practically non-existent), and I'm becoming more and more struck by the difference between the Israeli History and Jewish History departments. The Israeli history professors absolutely tie themselves into knots of political correctness and post-Zionist (I am resisting the urge for scare quotes) goobledygook. The Jewish history professors on the other hand feel free to express their take on things without falling into paroxysms of trendy academic Leftspeak. I have one professor who expressed her absolute belief in the fact that the Arab States wanted a peace treaty with Israel in the '50s but Ben-Gurion rebuffed them. This is basically the line taken by Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim, and the rest of their post-Zionist proteges. The problem is that it amounts to history boiled down to propaganda, since those who cite it never elaborate on the facts that the Arabs demanded as prerequisites to negotiation that Israel cede the Negev to Egypt and assent to the return of the Arab refugees, in other words, half Israel in size and quadruple its Arab population, in other words, set the stage for another war. The deal Hitler offered the Czechs was better than that. In other words, the Arabs wanted a peace treaty on totally unreasonable terms that would have led to another, likely catastrophic military confrontation. The only way you don't deem that worthy of mention is ideological, either your own or the fear not fitting into the general ideological trend. That's just an anecdotal example, I admit, but it is, unfortunately, the generally dominating trend among Israeli academic, who seem embarrassed to express any idea that might present Israel or Israeli policy in a halfway favorable light. Of course, this leads to bad history and bad teaching of history, nothing new of course, but nothing to be proud of either.


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