Oh No!!! Not Another Book About The Middle East!!! by Gerald A. Honigman
As I listened to my children, G_d bless, recite the ritual question, “why is this night different from all others?” during the recent Passover holiday, another thought came into my mind…
So much has been written about the Middle East over the past century…Why would anyone want to read yet another book about it–especially regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Or… Why is my new book, The Quest For Justice In The Middle East–The Arab-Israeli Conflict In Greater Perspective, different from all others?
It’s a fair question, indeed. So, let me explain…
While doing undergrad and graduate studies in Middle Eastern Affairs, certain disturbing facts became evident.
While Israel was routinely scrutinized and dissected–all in the name of objective scholarship, of course–far too many of the academics teaching these courses acted/act deaf, dumb, and blind to what was happening all around it. While all states of humans are imperfect, only that of the Jews in this region of study was routinely–is routinely–taken to task in most academic settings.
Case in point (and there were countless others)…
One of my doctoral seminars was taught by a scholar of, among other subjects, modern Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. Said academic knew full well the ethnic make-up of modern Turkey and the struggles for human rights still going on there to this day. One fifth of Turkey is Kurd–whom Turks like to call “Mountain Turks”–as one fifth of Israel is Arab. Roughly forty Israels would fit into Turkey–for just some perspective.
Now, in all of the discussions regarding struggles of folks for political rights and such in the region, the only time the word “Kurd” (some 35 million truly stateless people) came up was when this scholarly source of ethical enlightenment mocked their plight while speaking of travels through Turkey. This attitude is reflected in this academic’s books as well. Note that this was the same professor who taught entire seminars virtually dedicated to the plight of poor Arabs struggling for their 22nd state at the expense of the one that the Jews finally saw resurrected.
During that seminar, another doctoral student did a lengthy presentation on Haj Amin al-Husseini–the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. Completely omitted was the fact that this dude was Hitler’s commander of the Waffen SS division in the Balkans. I watched and listened carefully…no probing questions, comments, etc. from our glorious leader.
Now, I did my major research project for that same seminar on Ze’ev Vladimitr Jabotinsky… The good doctor was quick to ask about his alleged “Fascist connections.”
Too much of this hypocrisy and duplicity goes on to this very day in places where there should be no toleration for it at all–in the classrooms of universities. And students who dare to protest do so at risk of the very careers.
And that is why my book had to be written. Not that there are no others like it…but that there are definitely far too few daring to tread where this book does.
A great man once summed up the Arab-Israeli conflict as appetite versus starvation. He’s the very same guy I wrote about above…
Indeed, the scope of Jabotinsky’s analogy goes far beyond what he thought at the time, back in 1937. For, that same Arab mindset which allows no room whatsoever for justice for Jews (one half of whom in Israel who were refugees from the so-called “Arab”/Muslim World) also denies justice to scores of millions of other non-Arab peoples in the region as well. Arabs simply call the whole area, “purely Arab patrimony”–subjugating and forcibly Arabizing all, and frequently slaughtering those who might disagree…millions over the centuries, and continuing as this book was being written. It is no accident that major Kurdish and Amazigh (“Berber”) publishers are among those who wrote the Foreword and jacket comments for my book.
Quest…does not attempt to be a tour de force, although I’ve spent a substantial portion of my life studying the region in both academic and professional capacities. With the Middle East constantly making the news, there are plenty of the former available.
Rather, Quest…aims to provide the basics of the conflict to those being bombarded daily with misinformation coming out of this important region, and to place such topics and issues into a much broader perspective–one too often ignored, as we’ve seen above, by those who should certainly know better.
As with all other problems between peoples, there is a case to be made for both sides in the struggle between Jews and Arabs as well. Nowadays, however, one is often hard pressed to discover this.
The main problem in the Arab-Israeli conflict has always been that one side, the Arabs, has refused to grant that there is any justice due to their adversaries at all. This has not been the case regarding how Jews have approached this problem.
Somewhere down the road an Israel, about the size of New Jersey, and its six million Jews (why am I nervous about that number?)–which one needs a magnifying glass to find on a map of the world–became labeled “Goliath” to the Arabs’ alleged “David” in its struggle to survive amid some two hundred million Arabs on over six million square miles of territory.
While the reasons for this are complex, the fleeting sympathy and feelings of guilt some of the Western World felt because of the Holocaust, which helped to allow for the rebirth of the Jewish State, had long since vanished.
The stench of burning and decaying corpses at Auschwitz had subsided. Age-old, ingrained, and often religiously inspired animosities towards Jews again resurfaced, especially after the 1967 Six Day War. Very often they would take on a new disguise…anti-Zionism. This is not to say that to criticize particular Israeli policies is necessarily anti-Semitic, but it is to say that for many, as others have also observed, Israel had simply become the Jew of the Nations–and has been treated accordingly. How else to explain such blatant hypocrisy and double standards Israel has frequently been subjected to…by the non-Arab/Muslim world?
After pulling yet another rabbit out of its hat in thwarting the Arabs’ latest attempt on its life in June 1967, Israel sent out a new message to an astounded world:
Forget sympathy for dead Jews, a la the Holocaust, if you cannot empathize with live ones.
My book is an attempt to promote justice for all parties in conflict in the Middle East. It is not “anti-Arab,” just pro-everyone. In Arab eyes, however, that makes it anti-Arab. And it specifically deals with other key issues too often overlooked…for a variety of reasons.
Readers will find that ample footnotes are included, many from primary sources.
But no amount of footnoting will impress academic polemicists (who like to fling this label at those who dare to disagree with them)–the Rashid Khalidi clones–and their more subtle variants occupying the bully pulpits of their respective ivory towers. My own academic career, unfortunately, was in one of their tenured hands. They’ll point an accusatory finger in this book’s direction instead.
So, while I’m partially indebted to them for inspiring this work–since they avoided the topics you’ll read about in Quest…like the plague—I do not seek the approval of those who suppress academic disagreement in the most extreme of ways.
Indeed, in the study of Middle Eastern Affairs today, some subjects too often seem to be taboo while others never seem to leave center stage.
Constantly in the spotlight’s glare, Israel is frequently picked apart (all in the name of “objective scholarship,” of course), while far greater problems and sins of the Arab/Muslim states which surround it are usually ignored.
In academia, especially, for a variety of reasons, Middle Eastern Studies has been largely hijacked by a blatantly anti-Israel crew. Furthermore, in courses besides those pertaining to the Middle East, this animus often permeates those classrooms as well. My book provides much needed help for students going off to the university and other concerned readers as well. It is designed to be user friendly.
It’s not unusual, for example, for students to take courses and never be informed that the original Mandate for Palestine, as Great Britain received it on April 25, 1920 in the aftermath of World War I’s breakup of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, included the modern Arab nation of Jordan as well as Israel…along with non-apportioned territories such as Judea and Samaria (only since the last century also known as the West Bank). Since this doesn’t sit well with the typical Rashid Khalidi clone lesson that Jews “stole all of Palestine,” it is most often simply ignored.
Data and documentation from the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission and elsewhere which show that many, if not most, so-called “native Palestinians” were, in fact, Arabs who had poured into the Mandate from elsewhere to take advantage of the economic development going on due to the Jews–i.e. Arab settlers setting up Arab settlements in Palestine–will also appear to be non-existent as students learn the fine details about a “colonial” and /or “racist” Israel instead.
Students will likely not study the Jews’ age-old connections to the land of Israel, nor their tragic struggle against the Soviet Union of its day, the Roman Empire, for their freedom and independence.
Missing from most academic syllabi will also be a discussion of the other side of the refugee coin–the one half of Israel’s Jews whose families fled “Arab”/Muslim lands as a result of the Arab attempt to nip a reborn Israel in the bud– but without roughly two dozen other states to potentially call their own as Arabs indeed have.
While Israel’s admittedly imperfect struggle to survive will be closely examined under a high power lens of moral scrutiny, the forced Arabization, subjugation, and/or slaughter of millions of native, non-Arab Imazighen/Berbers, black Africans, Kurds, Copts, Assyrians, Jews, Semitic but pre-Arab Lebanese, and others in the region will likely never be mentioned at all…as neither will continuing black slavery in an Arab world that likes to lecture (along with its champions in academia) about “racist Zionism.”
As my book was being written, tens of millions of native, non-Arab Imazighen in North Africa were increasingly being told that they could not even name their children with their own names but had to use Arab/Islamic ones instead. And, of course, they were forced to use just Arabic when speaking, not their own native language. And nothing but silence about such things in the typical university classroom, the United Nations, and so forth.
The chapters of Quest…are concise and to the point. Each is designed to stand on its own as much as possible, so some repetition of crucial facts is deliberately built in to allow for this and resurfaces from time to time. The reader may thus open any chapter and quite possibly find crucial points to the conflict carefully woven in and related to the main thrust of that particular chapter.
Thus, despite the volumes of material out there, I believe that my book is unique in many ways–and in a very positive, useful light.
Lastly, I dare not forget to once again mention those more subtle, but as duplicitous, slanted, and hypocritical professors whose classes convinced me that my own personal account of this multi-faceted story had to be written. While being deprived of a Ph.D. dissertation advisor (and thus university career) by such folks, I remain, nonetheless, indebted to them as well for finally–decades later– forcing this book out of me.
Quest… may found at http://q4j-middle-east.com
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