04 December 2006

Honest Scholars!

Bad book reviews are not unusual, but Shalom Lappin's forensic dissection of Jacqueline Rose's The Question of Zion is a pleasure to read, not only for the sharpness of wit and understated humour but for Shalom Lappin's encyclopaedical grasp of the subject.

He points out numerous elementary errors that a scholar, such as Professor Rose, should have avoided. Professor Rose's entry at Queen Mary suggests that she specialises in the area of "Zionism and the history and writing of Israel-Palestine", but as the review and rejoiner indicate her knowledge, method and basic scholarly integrity in this book are to be questioned.

Professor Lappin's original review is here, Professor Rose's reply here and finally, a rejoinder from Professor Lappin, which contains many informative passages. Some that caught my eye are :

"Rose is careful to avoid mentioning the role that Palestinian violence has played in defeating moderate governments and keeping right wing parties in power. The reason is not hard to find. As indicated by the elision in her description of the grenade assault on Yehud in 1953, she does not take this violence seriously. She quotes Max Rodenbeck’s description of the Palestinian cross border attacks of the 1950s as ‘pinprick raids’. Would she also apply this description to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s attack on a group of school children in Maalot on May 15, 1974? 26 civilians, 21 of them high-school students, died in the raid. Does it also cover the PLO’s hijacking of a bus on the coastal road on March 11, 1978 in which 35 civilians were killed? Israel responded to this assault, which originated from a base in Lebanon, with the invasion of Lebanon up to the Litani River. This operation set in motion the sequence of events that produced Sharon’s disastrous Lebanon adventure in 1981 and the subsequent occupation in the south. Would Rose use Rodenbeck’s ‘pin prick raids’ terminology to characterize the Hamas suicide bombings in February and March of 1996? They killed 59 Israelis and helped to elect Benjamin Netanyahu in the June elections of that year. His victory over Shimon Peres derailed the Oslo peace process. Was the Hamas suicide bombing of a Passover Seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya on March 27, 2002 (which followed a string of deadly terrorist attacks throughout 2001 and 2002) also a pinprick raid? It killed 29 people and provoked Sharon into re-occupying the major cities of the West Bank, with widespread popular support. There is no question that Israel frequently responds to attacks with brutally excessive force, causing heavy civilian casualties. We have seen gruesome examples of this pattern in Gaza recently. But to simply ignore the violence to which these reprisals are a response is dishonest. Moreover, to refuse to acknowledge its corrosive influence on the political process in Israel is to indulge a thoroughly inaccurate view of this process.

One of the most serious failings of much Israeli strategic thinking is its chronically unimaginative resort to crude military reactions to complex problems that require nuanced political responses. Rose, and many of the commentators whom she admires, are invariably quick to point this out. By contrast, they resist any recognition of the extent to which this self-destructive pattern is, in no small part, itself conditioned by the longstanding enthusiasm for uncompromising violence and terrorism that Palestinians have frequently adopted as their preferred method for dealing with Israel."

The whole of Democratiya is well worth a read just for Professor Lappin's scholarly review of Rose's shoddy politicised propaganda.

No comments: