January 23, 2002

David Horowitz Rewrites the Past

An American Jew, David Horowitz, wrote a 5,000-word article "proving" that "...Israel Is The Victim And The Arabs Are The Indefensible Aggressors In the Middle East." I always enjoy reading the work of an American Jew who defines himself as non-Zionist, but who is nevertheless ready to sacrifice my life in his hatred towards Arabs. I sometimes have the feeling that some American Jews see Israel as their colonial army: they provide us with weapons and money, and we in return should gratefully kill and die, giving our sponsors both entertainment and something to be proud of. And just like the West was more interested in good fiction (books, films) on the colonies than in their actual situation, so these American Jews seem to be more interested in their own imagined Israel and its fictitious history than in the actual Mid-Eastern realities. It's a safe game they are playing. And a nasty one.    

The general scheme of Horowitz's argument is too trivial to analyze: the Jews are always good; the Arabs are always bad. Racism is inherent: "the Palestinians are a community of suicide bombers," he writes shamelessly. Some of his arguments are simply repulsive, like the manipulative use of Israel's peace camp: "There is no Arab 'Peace Now' movement, not even a small one, whereas in Israel the movement demanding concessions to Arabs in the name of peace is a formidable political force." The Israeli peace camp would be very grateful to Mr. Horowitz for using its very existence as an argument against peace.

Like official Israel, Horowitz offers no explicit solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but he hints again and again at Jordan being the Palestinian state. And like official Israel, Horowitz does have an implicit solution, clearly legible between the lines, as well as between Sharon's battle-lines: ethnic cleansing, either by deporting the Palestinians to Jordan, or by direct genocide, or by a combination of both. Israel is waiting for the right moment to do that, and is meanwhile preparing the ground in terms of international public opinion; Horowitz's article is part of this campaign to prepare the hearts for genocide – not "the Palestinians' genocidal agenda for the Jews," as Horowitz demagogically writes, but an Israeli genocidal agenda for the Palestinians, materializing day after day in front of our blindfolded eyes. Israeli generals hint at it when they repeatedly talk of the present period as "the second part of 1948" – the year he first ethnic cleansing of Palestinians was launched.

But above all, it is Horowitz's use of history that deserves attention. Several readers rejected my earlier claim, that distracting the discussion from the present to the past is an ideological strategy. Horowitz's article is an excellent demonstration of what I meant.

As Antiwar.com columnist Scott McConnell observes in his "open letter," Horowitz does not use the word "settlements" even once in his entire article. This is symptomatic: the present situation, in which three million Palestinians live under a most murderous Israeli occupation, with no political and human rights, their homes bulldozed at Israel's will, the women giving birth in Israeli checkpoints, scores and dozens of them killed every month, even the wretched infrastructure left by decades of occupation systematically destroyed, an entire people pushed into starving reservations, cut off and surrounded by tanks and barbed-wire, and hundreds of Jewish settlements that control and dispossess – all these are simply swept away under the heavy carpet of a fairy-tale about "3,700 years" (sic!) of Jewish history.

"History contains a myriad of details," I wrote in an earlier article; "you can always find some detail that will embarrass your opponent. If not, invent one – who can check?" Well Horowitz is a master in inventing such details, too many for me to check. I hope the following few will suffice to make the point.

Just A Few "Mistakes":

  •  Horowitz counts "more than 1,000 Israelis killed as a result of Palestinian attacks" between 1993 and 1999. Numbers of victims are always an effective argument, but they should be handled with care: by miscounting the dead the writer may undermine his own rhetoric, as he himself may look more interested at making a point than in human lives. The true number of victims, as counted by an Israeli right-wing site not suspected of a bias downwards, is 395.
  • Horowitz claims that, "During the same period 1993-1999 Israelis were so desperate for peace that they reciprocated these acts of murder by giving the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza [...] 95 percent of the territory their negotiators demanded." In fact, the Palestinian negotiators consistently demanded what all UN resolutions did: the territories occupied in 1967. Horowitz surely knows that they have been given a Bantustanian autonomy not in 95 percent, but in approximately 13 percent of these territories.
  • Horowitz assures us that "when a deranged Jew goes into an Arab mosque and kills the worshippers (which happened once) he is acting alone and is universally condemned by the Israeli government and the Jews in Israel and everywhere, and he is punished to the full extent of Israeli law." In fact, the "deranged Jew" he refers to, Baruch Goldstein, found his death during the massacre he committed, so he was not punished at all. Israel regularly punishes dead Palestinian fighters by destroying their family home or by punishing the entire village; but Goldstein's house was left untouched, and his settlement, 400 Jews who terrorize the entire Palestinian city of Hebron, was not dismantled, though such a measure enjoyed an overwhelming support in Israeli opinion polls after the massacre. Most Israelis indeed condemned the crime, but "acting alone" can hardly be said of a murderer whose municipality built a large memorial park for his followers, who come to pray at his grave, or for the hero of the biography titled Praised be the Man, a popular book in extreme right-wing circles.
  • Horowitz mentions "three Arab leaders assassinated by other Arabs for making peace with the Jews." In fact, the only Arab leader who made peace with Israel and was assassinated was Egypt's President Sadat. Even this assassination (by Moslem radicals) had very little to do with the peace treaty he had signed. Actually, the only leader in the region who was unambiguously assassinated because of peace talks was Yitzhak Rabin, murdered by a Jew; Horowitz has "forgotten" this case.
  • Horowitz claims that in 1978, "under the Camp David accords that Sadat signed, Israel returned the entire Sinai with all its oil riches. This act demonstrated once and for all that the solution to the Middle East conflict was ready at hand. It only required the willingness of the Arabs to agree." Not exactly: it also required the willingness of Israel to agree. In fact, President Sadat had offered peace to Israel under the same conditions back in 1971; Israel rejected the offer, Egypt and Syria launched the 1973 war, and only after that (and after 2,500 Israeli casualties) did Israel accept the very terms it had rejected earlier.
  • Horowitz claims that "At the moment of Israel's birth [...] there were 800,000 Arabs living in Israel alongside 1.2 million Jews," implying that Jews were a majority. As every Israeli knows, the number of Israeli Jews at the time was just 600,000. This means that ethnic cleansing had to take place in order to create a Jewish majority; and it did. Saying that the Arab refugees who had fled the Israeli slivers "did not return" is an impressive euphemism for the Israeli policy of shooting dead thousands of refugees who tried to return, thus creating the refugee problem. The Palestinian insistence on the right of return for them is hardly a "newly created demand," as Horowitz claims: actually, it is the very demand of Security Council Resolution 194 dated 11 December 1948.
  • Horowitz claims that "Israel had every right to annex these territories captured from the aggressorsa time-honored ritual among nations." Both the alleged right and the "honored ritual" reside exclusively in Mr. Horowitz's excited imagination, reflecting maybe the laws of the jungle or of the Wild West, but not international law and custom. I challenge Mr. Horowitz to find an international law that allows a nation to annex territories it has taken by force (the "aggressor" label is ridiculous: every nation in history defines its enemies as such), or to give even a single example since World War II of a nation anywhere on the globe that moved its international border by force even by a single inch and got away with it.

Text-only printable version of this article

Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel. He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv, teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His column appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.

Archived columns

David Horowitz Rewrites the Past

Say No to a Palestinian 'State'

Who Cares About the Palestinians?

Dancing in the Streets

The Ideology of Occupation

The Chosen Pariah

Mideast War – Really Imminent?

The State of the Army, Part Two

Building Settlements, Killing Peace

The State of the Army, Part 1

Israeli Left Sells Out Peace

Barak's Legacy


These are just a few examples. They are all biased the same way: portraying Israel as the good guy, Arabs as the bad guys. They accumulate to turning reality upside down: the victimizers become victims, the victims – victimizers. In trying to defend Israel, Horowitz first ignores the present, with which he cannot cope, and while turning to the past he is forced to invent a fairy-tale full of intentional distortions. As Israel's crimes intensify, the price of defending it is bound to rise: more force will have to be used to oppress the Palestinians, more truths will have to be suppressed and more lies be propagated to convince us that wrong is right.

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