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April 18, 2018 2:37 pm

New York Times Greets Israel’s 70th With Piece Claiming 1948 Was ‘Catastrophe’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times is marking Israel’s 70th birthday with an op-ed piece describing the Jewish state’s creation as a “catastrophe.”

The article also offers a historically false account of events in Haifa in 1948.

The Times article, by Ayman Odeh, who leads the vestiges of Israel’s Communist Party, begins:

HAIFA, Israel — Seventy years ago, the world changed around my family. The establishment of the state of Israel represented self-determination for Jews, but a catastrophe — “nakba” in Arabic — for Palestinians. In the area around the Mediterranean city of Haifa, where my family has lived for six generations, only 2,000 Palestinians of a population of 70,000 remained. My grandparents, A’bdel-Hai and A’dla, were among them. Their neighbors were expelled and dispossessed, and never allowed to return.

Luckily, the case of Haifa just so happens to have been the topic of extensive research by the eminent historian Efraim Karsh, who published his findings in 2000 in an authoritative and meticulously documented article in Commentary headlined, “Were The Palestinians Expelled?”

Professor Karsh wrote, “By early April 1948, according to Rashid Hajj Ibrahim, the head of the National Committee, the city’s Arab populace had dwindled to some 35,000-40,000.”

Professor Karsh reported that the town’s Jewish mayor, Shabtai Levy, “pleaded with the Arabs” to stay. Professor Karsh wrote:

Yaacov Salomon, a prominent Haifa lawyer and the Hagana’s chief liaison officer in the city, followed suit, assuring the Arab delegates that he “had the instructions of the commander of the zone . . . that if they stayed on they would enjoy equality and peace, and that we, the Jews, were interested in their staying on and the maintenance of harmonious relations.”

Karsh wrote, “there is an overwhelming body of evidence from contemporary Arab, Jewish, British, and American sources to prove that, far from seeking to drive the Arabs out of Haifa, the Jewish authorities went to considerable lengths to convince them to stay…the Jews were attempting to keep the Arabs in Haifa.”

It was the Arabs who urged the Arabs of Haifa to flee, by Karsh’s account.

If, say, President Trump or Prime Minister Netanyahu falsely claimed that someone had been “expelled” who actually had been begged to stay, the Times would doubtless accuse the politicians of waging an unprecedented and dangerous war on truth. Yet anyone waiting for the Times to correct or even to independently evaluate and assess the inaccurate claim about 1948 and Haifa will have a long wait ahead. If there is a “catastrophe” here, it has to do with the damage done to whatever remains of the Times‘ reputation for accuracy.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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