Was Michael Oren Inaccurate in His Description of Abbas New York Times Op-Ed?
Michael Oren, in his new book Ally (which I hope to read over Shabbat), describes an outrageous anecdote. Mahmoud Abbas wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, where, Oren says, “Abbas suggested that the Arabs had accepted the U.N.’s Partition Plan in 1947 while Israel rejected it.” He then describes a phone conversation with the opinion editor of the NYT, Andrew Rosenthal:
“When I write for the Times, fact checkers examine every word I write,” I began. “Did anybody check whether Abbas has his facts exactly backward?”
“That’s your opinion,” Rosenthal replied.
“I’m an historian, Andy, and there are opinions and there are facts. That the Arabs rejected partition and the Jews accepted it is an irrefutable fact.”
“In your view.”
“Tell me, on June 6, 1944, did the Allied forces land or did they not land on Normandy Beach.”
Rosenthal, the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter and famed executive editor, replied, “Some might say so.”
But The Forward responds, saying:
There are three big problems with Oren’s account. The first, and most important, is that nowhere in his piece of May 17, 2011 does Abbas assert that “the Arabs had accepted the U.N.’s Partition Plan in 1947 while Israel rejected it.” Check it out yourself at this link.
Michael Oren didn’t say that Abbas wrote those words; he says that Abbas suggested it.
The Forward is doing what they accuse Oren of doing – fabricating the facts.
Did Abbas suggest that Arabs accepted the partition? Indirectly, but yes. Here are the paragraphs in question:
It is important to note that the last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued. …Minutes after the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948, the United States granted it recognition. Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.
This is about as accurate as a biographical op-ed describing the difficult life of the author, orphaned at an early age, neglecting to mention that he had in fact killed his parents (to paraphrase the old joke.)
Abbas is indeed implying that the only reason there is no Palestinian state is because of actions by Israel and inactions by the West- without mentioning that if the Arab world accepted a Palestinian state, they could have created one in 1949. In fact, you will be hard pressed to find any Palestinian Arabs who ever insisted on Jordan ceding the annexed West Bank to become a separate state. (Egypt created a puppet government with no power for Gaza, but it was a joke. The PLO founding charter explicitly excluded Gaza and the West Bank from any consideration of being part of a Palestinian state, which was meant to be only Israel.)
So the indirect implication is that the Palestinians wanted a state and the world denied them this state. No – the Palestinians wanted Israel destroyed and seethed when they failed at doing so.
Which also happens to be the situation today, although saying that out loud is not acceptable discourse for the New York Times.
Besides the false implications, Abbas also is more directly lying in these paragraphs:
“Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs” – No, there were no expulsions in the months after the partition plan was voted on. There were numerous terror attacks on Jews starting only hours after the vote. The Haganah stayed on the defensive for months while Arabs attacked Jews.
“…to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel” – There were a few expulsions later on in the war, but not enough to alter the demographic character of Israel. The vast majority of Palestinian Arabs fled and were not forced out (a lie that Abbas repeats in his opening paragraph about his own flight from Safed.)
“…and Arab armies intervened” – No, they attacked to destroy Israel. They didn’t give a damn about Palestinian Arabs.
“Our Palestinian state, however, remains a promise unfulfilled.” – As Abbas himself says, the partition plan rejected by his people was a recommendation, not a promise. There was no promise.
Oren’s objections were to the ahistoric nature of the op-ed, and moreover, to the double standard of how closely the NYT scrutinizes op-eds by Zionists compared to how much latitude they give to the anti-Israel crowd. I have documented the lack of fact checking enough times here, so in that dimension Oren is 100% correct.