Response to Jonathan Hoffman’s article on my book, Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s GuideIf you follow the link to the Z-word blog be sure to check out the comments. At first they're the usual nonsense, praising the author of the post without indicating that they have read what it is the "reviewer" is supposed to be reviewing. Then Dan Judelson of Jews for Justice for Palestinians makes an appearance to underscore Jonathan Hoffman's sheer dishonesty, specifically on international law and the settlements. Well that smoked out the dregs. Hoffman appears to tie (or LIE) himself in more knots, a raving lunatic calling himself Modernity Blog pops in to dishonestly accuse Dan of dishonesty and, not to be outdone, Dr David Hirsh sends in his latest sock puppet, Shachtman to, er, change the subject and make up a few lies of his own.
UPDATE - Philip Weiss has blogged about this here.
Jonathan Hoffman is co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation in Britain. At an event in the Houses of Parliament four weeks ago to launch my book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, a man in the audience shouted repeatedly during my presentation. I later discovered that this man was Jonathan Hoffman when I saw his own rather different account of the evening on the Harry’s Place blog.
Hoffman has since written a review of my book which was posted on the ‘Z-Word Blog’, a website run by the American Jewish Committee. An abridged version of this review was offered to those going to an event for my book organised by War on Want last week. He had been banned by the charity from attending due to his past disruptive behaviour. This is my response to his review.
The main emphasis of Hoffman’s response is that my book is “a Big Lie.” This is based on the claim that the book is full of “doctored quotations” and “false quotes”, a veritable “catalogue of falsehoods”. This is strong stuff: the title of the Z-Word Blog post talks of “lies, damn lies” while the version distributed outside the War on Want event repeated the word ‘lie’ over 20 times (or as it appeared, ‘LIE’).
However, out of 399 listed footnote references in my book, Hoffman can only make a case for one quotation being incorrect. Moreover, Hoffman himself does what he accuses me of: making straightforwardly false claims about the book.
The quotation which I am quite prepared to reconsider is from the beginning of Part I, when I cite Ben-Gurion writing, “We must expel Arabs and take their places”. The first prominent historian to include this quotation was Benny Morris, in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem. This quotation was subsequently questioned by historian Efraim Karsh, who analysed the meaning of the hand-written edits in the original document. Morris accepted this point, and in Righteous Victims (2001), cited the quotation as: “We do not want and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places”.
This, however, is one quotation from a large body of evidence – a fraction of which is included in my own book. Despite the repetitious claim that the book is full of ‘false quotes’, this is Hoffman’s only example where he can provide supporting evidence (though not of a ‘fabrication’).
Let’s take an example of where Hoffman tries to pretend that there has been a ‘false’ quote:
Part One takes only one paragraph to get to ‘ethnic cleansing’ (a phrase repeated on average every 12 pages in the book). It then quotes Jabotinsky out of context: “Zionist colonisation, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population”. Jabotinsky (writing in 1923) also said “I understand as well as anybody that we have got to find a modus vivendi with the Arabs; they will always live in the country, and all around the country, and we cannot afford a perpetuation of strife”. But White does not quote that passage (of course). As we will see, ‘doctored’ quotes (that is, partial quotes or quotes taken out of context or isolated from important supporting quotes) permeate this book.
Hoffman does not contest the accurace of the quotation – he can only suggest decontextualision (a rhetorical step down). But even this claim is on shaky foundations. Hoffman gives a further Jabotinsky quotation, he says from 1923. In fact, the quotation comes from a letter written in July 1925. Furthermore, in the very same segment, Jabotinsky repeats his belief that the only way to realise a “Jewish Palestine” is “to make them [the Arabs] lose every vestige of hope” of resisting Zionist colonisation.
One can go on. Hoffman says:
Another false quote from the “Israel Bashers’ Greatest Hits” is ‘A Land Without A People, For A People Without A Land’ (pages 16 and 22). But even White resists the temptation to attribute it to an early Zionist (it was “coined and propagated by nineteenth-century Christian writers”).
In what way then can this be considered a ‘false quote’, given that Hoffman himself says I don’t “attribute it to an early Zionist”? Then there is this:
Avi Shlaim is his source for his assertion that Jewish forces significantly outnumbered Arab forces throughout the 1948 War of Independence. What a shame White ignored this passage from the same source…
Hoffman duly quotes from Shlaim, but the idea that I have deliberately omitted contradictory evidence is rather laughable: the whole section from which these quotations are taken is one in which Shlaim is deliberately undermining the “myth” that “the Israeli victory [in 1948] was achieved in the face of insurmountable military odds”.
Perhaps because Hoffman’s evidence for the book being ‘permeated’ with false quotes and lies is rather thin on the ground (or perhaps because he just didn’t read it all), Hoffman also gets some things plain wrong. One might call them, well, ‘false quotes’:
Hoffman wrote, “White claims that the Israeli government planned the genocide of the Israeli Arabs”.
I never wrote that in the book, and I have never written that anywhere else.
Hoffman wrote, “But there was no ‘ethnic cleansing’ and Plan Dalet was not a masterplan to achieve this non-aim, as White contends.” The War on Want event special print out read: LIE ‘Plan Dalet a masterplan to achieve ethnic cleansing’ - LIE
I never said Plan Dalet was a “masterplan”. I mention it twice in a 13 page-section on the Nakba, and say it played “an important role”.
Hoffman wrote: “Now White moves the focus to Gaza and the West Bank. Nowhere in this section does he mention that Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005 (indeed in places (eg page 60) it is as if this had not happened)…” The War on Want event handout read: “Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005” – NEVER STATED IN THIS BOOK
Now one begins to wonder if Hoffman has only ever opened the book at random (perhaps with one finger hovering over Caps Lock). On p.61 there is a map of the Occupied Territories titled ‘Settlements established and evacuated 1967-2008’ – the key includes ‘Settlements evacuated in September 2005’. On p.62, I list the settlements established since 1967 in the OPT, including “the Gaza Strip’s 16 settlements dismantled in 2005”. There is also a specific section in the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’, stretching over four pages (pp.111-114), directly discussing the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.
A final point. Hoffman also chooses to contest, among other things, the illegality of Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories:
White repeats the untruth that the settlements are illegal (p62). The United States for example has not considered them illegal since the time of Professor Eugene Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, 1966-9.
Firstly, if the US has “not considered [the settlements] illegal” since 1966-’69, one wonders what led the US Department of State to tell its embassy in Israel in 1968 that “the transfer of civilians to occupied areas, whether or not in settlements which are under military control, is contrary to Article 49 of the Geneva Convention”; or Jimmy Carter to say the following in July 1977: “This matter of settlements in the occupied territories has always been characterized by our Government, by me and my predecessors as an illegal action”. Secondly and more importantly, international law is not created by US administrations, and the settlements are considered illegal by: United Nations Security Council resolutions, the International Court of Justice, the European Union, and High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Despite all this, Hoffman says it is untrue that the settlements are illegal.
Hoffman called my book an “artless, crude piece of Israel-bashing”, as well as a “tired piece of intellectually bankrupt propaganda”. He seemingly feels that the case I make in my book will simply collapse under the weight of his insults and insinuations. Hoffman has (literally) shouted ‘Lies!’ about the book, but his own response – published by the AJC’s ‘Z-Word Blog’ and linked to by sites like Harry’s Place, is characterised by bluster, a disregard for international law, and simple untruths about the book supposedly being ‘reviewed’.
Well done Ben!