Dear Jon Voight,
We write to you as admirers of your work for many years. We are also professors of modern Middle Eastern studies, specializing on the history and contemporary realities of Israel, Zionism and Palestine, and between the two of us, we have written and edited over half a dozen books on the country and the two peoples who are destined — or doomed, depending on your point of view — to share it.
August 18, 2014
By : Gil Hochberg (Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, UCLA)
Mark LeVine (Professor, Department of History, UC Irvine and Lund University, Center for Middle Eastern Studies)
Source : Huffington Post
We have read your open letter to Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and other critics of the latest Israeli bombing and invasion of Gaza, in response to their own open letter condemning Israeli actions during the war. Your passion for defending Israel is clearly as great as your passion for acting. However, behind your passion is a view of Israel’s history and current actions that are utterly at odds with the actual history and present-day realities in the country. They are simply dead-wrong, and your belief in them has led you to adopt views that will ultimately — and at this rate, sooner rather than later — doom, not defend, Israel. Moreover, while you have laudably said that they or other actors should not face industry sanctions for standing up to Israel, we believe that the intensity of your criticism, coupled with the inaccuracy of the arguments, not only exacerbates the rewriting of the conflict’s history in the mainstream media but contributes both to a toxic atmosphere of hatred against Palestinians and to a purported blacklist against them.
Let us begin with your opening argument:
They are obviously ignorant of the whole story of Israel’s birth, when in 1948 the Jewish people were offered by the UN a portion of the land originally set aside for them in 1921, and the Arab Palestinians were offered the other half. The Arabs rejected the offer, and the Jews accepted, only to be attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving them into the sea. But the Israelis won. The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973, launching a sneak attack on the holiest Jewish holiday. Each time the Jews prevailed but not without great loss of life. And when Israel was not fighting a major war, it was defending itself against terrorist campaigns.
This is the traditional narrative of Israel’s birth, part of what Israeli hisitorian Simha Flapan described as the “myths” surrounding Israel in his famous 1987 book The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities. However, this is a distortion of the actual history, which saw Zionism arrive on the soil of a Palestine that was already in the midst of its own modernization, against which what Israeli sociologist Gershon Shafir describes as a “militant [Zionist] nationalist movement” developed, deploying the “conquest of labor” and then the “conquest of land” to increasingly powerful effect once the British conquered Palestine in 1917.
After three decades of British rule that was legally committed — through the Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate — to facilitate the creation of a Jewish “national home” at the expense of fostering Palestinian Arab nationalism, outright civil war became inevitable. When war finally came, the Zionist leadership “accepted” the terms of the 1947 Partition Plan. In reality, they had little intention of actually fulfilling them, and over the next year, through intercommunal conflict and then all-out war, three quarters of a million Palestinians were permanently forced from their homes, and over 500 villages were destroyed.
Documentary below gives an in depth look at Zionism and how this ideology has shaped Palestine and the surrounding regions. — TRp