“The Myth of Arab Intransigence” Shimon Shamir in 1970 and 2013

Another find in Allan Solomonow’s mountain of files is an article that the Committee on New Alternatives in the Middle East (CONAME) reprinted from a January 9, 1970 article by Shimon Shamir in the Israeli paper Ma’ariv. CONAME was co-founded by Noam Chomsky, and Allan was its main staffperson. They did too much without fundraising enough and eventually morphed into other groups that continued to bring Israelis, Jews and Arabs (Palestinians and others) together.

I am focusing a lot in this blog on early examples of absolute demonization of Palestinians by the Jewish establishment in the United States and Israel. In particular, the official, chosen representatives of the Palestinian people, the PLO and now Hamas, have consistently bee characterized as monolithically bad, and to disagree with that assessment invites loathing, character assassination and worse.

But I also am wanting to show that there were people who saw through all that. Even if they didn’t go as far as I hope,  or still didn’t like charges of racism against Zionists or strongly opposed characterizing Israel as a colonial state, they knew better than to act like the PLO was really hell-bent on killing all Israelis and maybe all Jews. It just wasn’t so.

Shimon Shamir in 1970:

The view of the Arabs as a monolithic, hopelessly unreasonable society breeds self-righteousness and impairs clear political thinking. An Israeli public of this frame of mind would tend to reject any moderate expressions of reason by Arabs as pure hypocrisy and accept any generalization about Arab fanaticism as an established fact. It would fail to recognize that this very attitude is more compatible with the Israelis’ image of the Arab society than with their own self-image…Therefore, if we disregard the different shades of opinion held by the Arabs, we are forced into a sterile discussion of the conflict and lapse into a dangerously fatalistic mood. This approach widens the influence of that Israeli minority which demands total annexation of occcupied areas, while at the same time,abandoning the search for a peace settlement with the Arab world and willingly resigning itself to the vision of a nation living forwever by its sword.”

Shimon Shamir was an Israeli ambassador to Jordan and is professor emeritus of Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University. In looking up a little more about him before posting this entry, I found an interesting interview of him by Akiva Eldar in AlMonitor in 2013 which also shows that Israelis are as totally blind as it often seems these days. Not that I agree with all he says in there, but it was still refreshing.

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