[H/t to Contentions. I read the review in this Sunday’s NYT as well. I was going to post something but why bother when Mr. Pollak has made most of the points for me. However, unlike Mr. Pollak, I do not view all of the “New Historians” in such a negative light. Benny Morris, for example, is an excellent historian.]
Tom Segev, one of the leaders of the Israeli “New Historians” — their cause is to expose the “founding myths” of Zionism, so as to undermine Israeli self-confidence — has written for the New York Times a review of a book about the grand mufti of Jerusalem that is a perfect illustration of the desire of the New Historians to see politics triumph over scholarship. (The grand mufti was the leader of the Palestinian Arabs during the 1920’s and 30’s and a proud ally of Adolf Hitler.)
It is apparent from the get-go that Segev applies the same intellectual standards to reviewing a work of history as he does to writing a work of history:
“Icon of Evil,” is of little scholarly value, and may be potentially harmful to Middle East peace prospects.
What in fact has been very harmful to the peace process is the New Historians themselves, whose work has helped convince the Palestinians that the “right of return” is not just historically legitimate, but that there is pressure building among Israeli elites to approve just such a concession.
It is also interesting to hear Segev advocate that the touchy subject of the Mufti be suppressed, when he has never discouraged Arabs from broaching a host of subjects that cause acute touchiness in Israelis — such as Holocaust-denial, the glorification of killing Jews, and the standard practice on Palestinian state television of denying Israel’s existence on maps. For Segev, as for most self-styled peaceniks, it is only Arab sensitivities that must be respected in order for the peace process to go forward.
Palestinian leaders have a long history of aligning themselves with tyrants — Hitler, followed by the Soviet Union, then Saddam Hussein, and today, at least for the Hamas half, Iran. Does Segev believe that discussion of these alliances should also be suppressed?
[Read it all here]