Thursday, February 11, 2016

The lack of proof of Israel's crimes proves the crimes

Last week I was e-mailing back and forth with Prof. Donna Robinson Divine of Smith College about an upcoming academic event. Along the way we detoured into a discussion of the sorts of things one can hear these days at academic conferences. Prof. Divine has given me permission to post the relevant segments of our correspondence for public consumption:

The panel on Israeli Archives at the American Historical Association meetings placed a great deal of emphasis on Yishuv period and on the War of Independence with one panelist actually stating that if she and others had access to the documents, they might be able to show that policymakers planned the displacement of Palestinians.​  Then, she added that if they could prove that a so-called policy of elimination [of the indigenous read Palestinians], they could secure the return of all the refugees in accordance with international law.
Whoever the panelist was, she was not adhering to the truth. By and large, the documentation of that period is open. All she needs to do is come and use it. And if there's a specific file which has been sealed – here and there, there are such files – she should request of the State Archivist that he look into the matter so as to open it.
The documentation shows very clearly that there was no such policy. Since that's the case, she's reverting to falsehoods. In essence what she's saying is that although the record shows that what she wishes were historically true isn't historically true, she's claiming that the record must be wrong; and the reason the record must be wrong is that the evil Zionists are falsifying it.
I summarized the view of one of the panelists, but alas, she was not the only person in the room or on the panel expressing that view.  Some of us in the audience--through q and a--tried to restore the balance [...] The American Historical Review devoted one of its recent issues to an exchange of views on archives and that was the theoretical framework deployed by the chair of the panel. From my reading of the field of Middle East Politics [US, England, Canada] the people who embrace this kind of so-called intellectual perspective are the ones gaining tenure and academic prestige.  It is probably worse for the academy than for Israel but I am committed to do what I can try to reverse the course.
So, to summarize: it is now acceptable for a panelist at a prestigious academic conference to claim that the lack of documentation of Israeli crimes proves not only that Israel committed the crimes, but that it's being devious and hiding the documentation. This, at a time when the archives are open, the documents in them have been searched exhaustively, and they do not support the thesis the academics wish they would support.

The archives in Israel have lots of problems. I spend all my professional hours on trying to fix them. (Watch this place to see some interesting and significant reports in early May). The claims made by the unnamed panelist are simply not true. But Israel's detractors don't care about facts, They care about hitting Israel. Which means that they aren't engaged in "legitimate criticism of Israeli policies", to use the standard phrase, but rather in something quite else. Antisemitism springs to mind.

Update: Dr. Divine sends in a comment on the aftermath of her encounter with researchers who blame Israel in spite of, or even because, there isn't any evidence for their thesis. It gets even worse:
DRD: After completing the Archives Panel, I turned to finish another of the panels I developed on the topic of the 'settler colonialist perspective'. I asked some of the very people who embrace this view of Israel--and who charge Israel with denying them or those adopting this view access to relevant archives--to participate in a panel that would interrogate this approach. In fact, with one particular person, I pointed out that there would be archivists at the conference holding out the possibility of determining whether or not Israeli archives are indeed 'open'. The academician who already has charged Israel with denying access to those challenging the country's legitimacy refused my offer because of a strong commitment to the boycott movement. Charge Israel with denying access and then prove it by ever refusing to gain access. Wonderful!


Elder of Ziyon said...

I'd love to know details, but as I was looking I founf this:

Paul M said...

I wonder, is there any interest in obtaining access to the Arab archives of that era—which, last I was aware, were uniformly unavailable. I would make a bet there is little if any. But then, why open a can of worms that might reveal truths people prefer not to know?