Professor Ussama Makdisi’s “Gun Zionism” (The Hill, September 4) is blatant anti-Israel propaganda, line after clichéd line. 

Makdisi declares that the recent Israel/Hamas war is about “fundamental injustice that is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.” In fact, Operation Protective Edge was Israel’s response to hundreds of indiscriminate mortar and missile attacks by Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terrorist groups on Israel, each launch a war crime. It intensified with Israel’s identification of the Hamas tunnel network, intended to facilitate kidnappings and massacres.

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The conflict itself goes back at least to Arab rejection of the 1947 U.N. partition plan for British Mandatory Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, and the Arabs’ subsequent 1948-1949 war to destroy Israel.

Makdisi asserts that  “Zionist Israel was a settler-colonial enterprise.” The United States and most other modern countries are settler-colonialist enterprises, some older than others. Makdisi teaches at Rice University in Texas, formerly part of Mexico, and before that of Spain’s New World empire, and prior to that under Aztec domination, and earlier fragmented among numerous tribes. Settler-colonist Makdisi might want to reexamine his terms.

Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, among other Arab countries, are colonial creations. What makes Israel different, not that Makdisi’s readers would know, is that it embodies an old, indigenous people’s return to a part of its ancient homeland. This return was blessed and strengthened by international law, including the 1920 San Remo Treaty, 1922 League of Nation’s Palestine Mandate, 1924 Anglo-American Convention and the 1945 U.N. Charter.

Makdisi mentions the “real suffering of European Jews that culminated in a German [emphases in the original] genocide against them” as if this had nothing to do with Mandatory Palestine or its Arab residents. In fact, Palestinian Arabs under their pro-Nazi leader Haj Amin al-Husseini were complicit in the Holocaust. By repeated massacres of Palestinian Jews in the 1920s and ‘30s, Palestinian Arabs induced Great Britain to close Mandatory Palestine—created to be a Jewish refuge and renewed homeland—to continued Jewish immigration. This trapped European Jews just as the Nazis consolidated power.

Makdisi claims “Israel was born of terrible violence against an Arab population that had historically no hand in anti-Semitism” and charges Israel with ethnic cleansing, “as numerous Israeli historians have demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Falsehood upon falsehood.

The Arab majority in what became Israel was partly the result of large-scale migration into areas developed economically under Zionist resettlement from the late 1800s on. Among others, Prof. Fred M. Gottheils, University of Illinois, highlighted the movement in “Arab Immigration into Pre-State Palestine, 1922 – 1931,” in The Palestinians—People, History, Politics.

Makdisi’s “terrible violence against an Arab population that had historically no hand in anti-Semitism” is half figment, half fabrication. Suppression and extortion of Palestine’s Jews and Christians by Muslim rulers, including official second-class dhimmi status and the jizya tax was an old story before twentieth century Arab massacres of Jews.

As for the estimated 420,000 to 650,000 Arabs who left what became Israel in 1947 – 1949 (the former an estimate by a U.N. official on the scene at the time, the later the difference in the area’s Arab population between the last British and first Israeli census) only a minority were expelled, generally as a result of being inside Israeli lines during the fighting. A majority fled either at the urging of Arab leaders hoping for a clear field against the Jews or simply to avoid the war.

Ethnic cleansing did occur when more than 800,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries in the late 1940s and early 1950s, nearly three-fourths of whom immigrated to Israel. As for “numerous Israeli historians” supporting Makdisi’s charges, a handful of Israeli “new historians” in the 1980s and 1990s did claim that Arabs were often expelled. Their misreading or distortion of archival material was exposed by Prof. Efraim Karsh of Kings College, London, in his 1997 work Fabricating Israeli History; The New Historians.

Makdisi’s claim that Israel and its supporters are trying to “build an exclusionary Jewish state in a multi-religious land” is laughable. All citizens of Israel, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze, Asians and others exercise equal rights. They vote, serve in the Israeli parliament and as judges, including on the Supreme Court. Such treatment contrasts with many Arab/Islamic Middle Eastern states and movements’ treatment of minorities, including Muslim minorities, under their control, as the headlines attest daily.

 Makdisi’s compulsion to portray the Palestinian Arabs as blameless victims omits much, rejection of Israeli-U.S. offers of a West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem state in exchange for peace with Israel in 2000 and 2001—with the violence of the second intifada—and again with the refusal of an Israeli-only two-state proposal in 2008.

Makdisi is identified as a professor of history. His polemic, however, calls to mind critic Mary McCarthy’s famous charge against writer Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes, including and and the, is a lie.” Rice University would be well advised to scrutinize Makdisi’s scholarship.

Rozenman is Washington director and Kaufman media assistant for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.