The Holocaust Historiography Project

Book review

Monumental Work Sets Record Straight on Palestine-Israel Issue

  • Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, by Issa Nakhleh. New York: Intercontinental Books, 1991. Hardcover. Two volumes (8½ × 11 inch format). 1,180 pages. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. ISBN 096228811X. (Available from the IHR: $69, plus $5 shipping.)

Reviewed by Robert John Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem

At a meeting with Daniel Patrick Moynihan in the mid-1970s, when he was serving as US ambassador to the United Nations, I presented him with volume I of The Palestine Diary, which I had written and published in 1970 with the assistance of Sami Hadawi. Moynihan subsequently invited me back to his office at the US Mission to discuss the situation in Lebanon. The ambassador, now senior US senator from New York (and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee), lived up to his Irish ancestry by his openness to discussion and good humor.

He seemingly could not resist telling me about an unnamed Brooklyn congressman (probably Hugh Carey) who had developed a system for re-election that returned him to Washington again and again. Every time an election was coming up, he had his agent book speaking engagements for him at all the synagogues in his district. Wearing a skullcap, at each visit he would declare how much he had done for Israel, and how much more needed to be done. Invariably, he was returned with a comfortable majority. That is, until the last time he ran. In spite of adherence to this successful routine, his usual margin of victory was sharply reduced. He ordered an inquiry. Finding: a large number of Arabs had moved into his district!

A Perennial Affair

It has long been the practice for American political candidates to cultivate supporters of the state of Israel, bidding for votes and campaign contributions. Thus, in a speech to a Jewish audience just before the 1992 presidential election, candidate Bill Clinton sought their support by criticizing President Bush for putting pressure on Israel. Bush was temporarily withholding a $10 billion loan guarantee for new housing for Jewish immigrants from Russia as a means of inducing Israel to take part in peace negotiations with its Arab neighbors. Clinton further promised that, if elected, he would review the conviction and sentence of Jonathan Pollard, the US government official found guilty of spying for Israel. Clinton’s hint of a presidential pardon is reminiscent of one given three decades earlier by President Kennedy. Following his election, he pardoned Hank Greenspun, a publicity agent for the gangster “Bugsy” Siegel who had been convicted of stealing weapons from a US Navy weapons depot and shipping them to Israel.)

As for Al Gore, I offer Gore Vidal, the erudite historian and social critic, and a distant relative of the vice president, who wrote:

The office of vice-president is now the preserve of the Israeli lobby, and Gore will continue the Quayle tradition. After all, in the 1988 presidential primaries, Gore’s campaign was largely paid for by The Lobby, whose point man was the ineffable New Republic publisher Mart Peretz (who boasted in Spy magazine that he'd written “Al's” speech at the Democratic convention). The alliance between a Pentagon-oriented southern politician (Gore has never voted against an appropriation for war) and the Israeli lobby was a not unnatural one in the days of the Cold War. But no longer. Imagine if a Roman Catholic lobby were in place to siphon off billions of federal dollars to bail out the truly broke Vatican, while covertly supporting the terrorism of, say, the Irish Republican

The delegation of the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine to the United Nations, 1947. Issa Nakhleh, author of The Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, is at the left. For years the primary representative of the Palestinian people, the committee has been superseded by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Army. I don’t think the Godly (non-Catholic) would like this, while the Manly would be in court. Once selected by Clinton, Gore made his first speech to AIPAC [American-Israel Public Affairs Committee], where he groveled without shame. He was there to get money for services rendered; and on offer. Happily, the new Israeli prime minister, Rabin, has just given the American Israeli lobby hell on the ground that their crude buying of senators in order to put the legislative against the executive branch might start a backlash among even the densest goyim. Henceforth, the Israeli command post will not be the senate but the vice-president’s office. (GQ, Nov. 1992, p. 230.)

Nor have most Republican candidates and office-holders been any better than Democrats in paramount support of Israel’s interests. The recent exposure of David Steiner, president of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, in which Steiner boasted during a secretly taped telephone conversation of having cut a deal with Secretary of State James Baker to get Israel “$1 billion and other goodies that people don’t even know about,” was just another pro-Israel action perpetrated under the Reagan and Bush administrations. There was general support for Israel’s invasion and occupation of Lebanon, collusion in the Israeli-orchestrated Iran-Contra scandal, and the continual extraction of billions of dollars from American taxpayers, poured annually into Israeli coffers. Steiner, who was obliged to resign after his taped conversation was made public, also told a prospective contributor that AIPAC was busily negotiating with the Clinton camp for a pro-Israel secretary of state and a pro-Israel national security adviser to the president. As New York Times writer Thomas Friedman noted in his report on the Steiner affair, AIPAC has justifiably been “considered the most powerful lobby in Washington.” (NYT, Nov. 5, 1992, p. A24.)

Diplomacy and 'Making Facts'

This is the reality of more than a half-century of American policy with regard to Palestine and Israel. While president after president has strutted the international stage talking of human rights, generations of Palestinians have suffered from these perennial behind-the-scenes shifters of the American political theater. As Issa Nakhleh writes in his Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem:

America has been reduced in its Middle East policy to something like a quasi-colony of the Zionist State… The strength of organized American Jewry has left a list of patriotic American Senators and Congressmen [whom he names] who were silenced or politically destroyed by the Zionists.

Mr. Nakhleh is a gentleman and a diplomat, known to generations of UN delegations, as I can testify. I have recounted my meeting with him and Mr. Malik of the USSR during the 1973 Yom Kippur war. (See: R. John, Behind the Balfour Declaration, pp. 19-20.) [Nakhleh spoke at the Third IHR Conference in 1981. His “Memorandum to the President” was published in the Fall 1982 IHR Journal.]

Mr. Nakhleh’s advocacy of Palestinian rights spans the period from the last days of British rule, when he studied law in London at Lincoln’s Inn, to the present. Throughout these years, he has represented the diplomatic position of the Palestine Arab Higher Committee. Mr. Nakhleh toiled patiently in that diplomatic milieu of black coat and striped trousers, conforming to the legacy of League of Nations Geneva, British White Papers, Royal Commissions, commissions of inquiry, United Nations reports, and resolution after ineffective UN resolution on Palestine, expecting “the democracies” to support their proclaimed ideals of equal rights and impartial justice.

In contrast to the tradition of formal negotiations and compromise of diplomacy and international law is the Zionism of Realpolitik. They call it “making facts.” It is the attainment of political and territorial ends by action, not talk. It has had great success, and that success has produced imitation in contemporary international affairs, and American political-military policy.

The Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem includes documentation of the process of “making facts” and its successes, terrible as the “facts” and successes have often been. Keyed to chapter-length expositions, the Encyclopedia documents the expulsion and deportations of Palestinians. eyewitness accounts of massacres, looting, pillaging, and expropriation of property, and the obliteration of dozens of Arab villages from the face of the earth and from maps. The successful blitzkrieg of the 1967 Six Day War took territory, a fact. Palestinian refugee camps bombed with planes and napalm “Made in the USA” are facts. Israeli concentration camps and torture of prisoners, crimes against Palestinian women, and Israeli piracy are facts of Zionist policy.

“Making facts” continues with state building of new Jewish settlements on Arab land in the “Occupied Territories,” subsidized and supported by loans of $10 billion guaranteed by the good faith and credit of the American people pledged by their president and Congress. The deportation without trial of 400 Muslim Palestinians just before Christmas 1992 was a violation of international law and convention, but the Israeli ambassador to the US said he had been assured by the State Department, “at a very high level,” that “in no case” would the Security Council be allowed to approve a resolution leading to anti-Israel sanctions. (New York Times, Jan. 10, 1992, p. A10). No wonder many Islamic fundamentalists call the United States the “Great Satan.”

The Encyclopedia meticulously documents the bloody record of Zionist leaders such as Menachem Begin, the Deir Yasin killer; Yitzhak Shamir, an assassin of Red Cross peace envoy Count Folke Bernadotte; Ariel Sharon, the presiding officer of the Sabra and Shatila massacres; or Yitzhak Rabin and his policy of child murder and bone-breaking in the Intifada. The Encyclopedia compares the American, British, and French furor at German Nazi hostile acts against the Jews during the 1930s, which helped to bring on the Second World War, with the response of Western governments to Israeli crimes against the Palestinians. “The victims are called terrorists, murderers and criminals and the real terrorists and war criminals are being received as respectable representatives of a democratic society,” writes Nakhleh.

The author does not neglect the wider context of what might be termed, Nuremberg-style, “International Zionist Conspiracy and Aggression.” He records the efforts of Zionist leaders for a worldwide economic boycott of Germany as soon as the National Socialists came to power, a sequence that I documented in 1970. (See: The Palestine Diary, New York: New World Press, 1970, Vol. 1, pp. 241-246.)

Nor does Nakhleh neglect Zionism’s Jewish victims. In Chapter 35, “Zionist Crimes Against Jews,” he tells the story of the conflict within Jewry, reminding us that the first political victim of the Zionist conspirators in America was a Jewish Republican, Congressman Julius Kahn. This chapter includes a section about Neturei Karta, or Friends of Jerusalem, a little-known movement of observant Jews who believe that “Zionists are the greatest enemies of the Jewish people.” These pious adherents of Judaic principle insist that, according to the Torah (Jewish law), all land should be returned to the rightful owners, Jews are not permitted to shed blood, humiliate or dominate others, and that Israel has no right to speak in the name of Jews. Nowhere, declares Neturei Karta, do Jews live in greater danger and insecurity than in the Zionist state.

Toward Liberation

It has always disgusted me to see pictures of American presidents grinning and holding hands with Stalin, Mao, Tito, Ceausescu, Begin, Shamir, and their like; and revolted me to hear them talk of “human rights” while turning over our tax dollars to such mass murderers. In the same way I am disgusted to hear a British prime minister or UN ambassador press on principle a demand that Iraq compensate Kuwait for, in part, the effects of US bombing. (Kuwait was part of the littoral of pre-"Iraq” Mesopotamia.)

What about the principle of compensation to the Palestinians? Did not the Balfour Declaration, endorsed by the US Congress, pledge “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” If the Palestinians could enforce compensation for breach of contract, half of England, and New England, might be up for sale!

Beyond informing, the revelations in this revisionist work should inspire its readers to speak out knowledgeably and effectively — to friends, on radio and television talk shows, in letters to the editor, and in school and academic assignments — against further American complicity in Zionist violations of Palestinians' rights. The importance of the Encyclopedia of the Palestine Problem, no less than its $69 price tag, suggests that readers should ask for its acquisition by libraries.

The establishment in 1948 of a “Jewish state” in Palestine was a phenomenal achievement. In fifty years from the first Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, attended by a small number of Jews who represented little more than themselves, the Zionist idea had captivated the majority of world Jewry, and devotees had enlisted in particular Britain, America and the United Nations to intervene in Palestine in its support. In the last fifty years, using the “Holocaust” in a system of repetitive reinforcement of behavior modification, a climate of opinion has been created in which criticism of Zionism-Israel may be denounced as “anti-Semitism,” and the illusion of a moral duty to support Israel has been created. This support has been transmuted into a tribute of nearly $80 billion dollars' worth of aid from the United States, which continues to flow. (New York Times, Sept. 23, 1991). Germany’s “restitution” payments to Jews and Israel have come to about $50 billion (at current exchange rates). Palestinians have received no compensation for their losses.

Like millions of other Palestinians, Issa Nakhleh is barred from returning to his homeland, while the earnings and credit of Americans subsidize the illegal settlement there of Jews from Russia, Ethiopia and elsewhere. May he live to see the day when the American people are liberated from this psychological warfare against their interests and the rights of Palestinians, when they insist on a government that stops all such foreign subsidies. Arnold Toynbee wrote in his foreword to The Palestine Diary, “If the American government were to be constrained by American public opinion to take a non-partisan line over Palestine, the situation in Palestine might quickly change for the better.” It could lead to Nakhleh’s return to his homeland, and the freeing of all its people.

From The Journal of Historical Review, March/April 1993 (Vol. 13, No. 2), page 41.