Wednesday 7 May 2008

Israel, an irreparable mistake, by Chris van der Heijden

Bert @ Dutch Blog Israel has a post (Angels and demons) on double standards: balanced shades of grey when dealing with WWII Dutch collaboration and a pitch-black approach when it comes to Israel:

"In order to provide a cheerful note to a somber day, here is a picture of a feline Hitler-lookalike, found here via the weblog of a Dutch journalist-blogger who today will tell Dutch-Jewish teenagers how as a young girl she lived in hiding from the Germans and their Dutch collaborators.

By the way, the son of such a collaborator, who is a respected and successful historian and journalist, wrote a book on the occasion of Israel's 60th anniversary, titled Israel, an irreparable mistake.

Last week I saw him - online - on Dutch television being interviewed about the book. That his father was a very senior member of the most notorious and anti-Semitic part of the Dutch National-Socialist Movement (another son - a famous actor, playwright and screenwriter - tells us about their father's wartime past on his website) is of course not the man's responsibility, and normally a person's parents' past is not necessary relevant when judging that person's work. Nevertheless, I could not help noticing that this historian - who became famous with his book Grey Past, in which he fervently argues in favor of a balanced, non-judgemental approach towards the history of WWII and attacks the ways in which the Dutch until the 1980s and 1990s divided the players of that history rigorously into goed and fout (right and wrong) or white and black - has no problem whatsoever with a black-and-white-approach when it comes to judging (the genesis of) the state of Israel (and the immediate aftermath of that genesis).

I have no idea about Chris van der Heijden's expertise in history of Zionism and/or the Middle East, but from what he said on television and from the available online information about this book it is crystal clear that for him Israel is not white or grey but pitch-black. In the interview he tells about a Palestinian girl who was raped and murdered by Israeli soldiers during Israel's War of Independence (1948-9). This sad and shameful episode of Israel's history, which appears in Ben Gurion's diary, was made public in the fall of 2003 through an article in Ha'Aretz ( and not only three years ago, as VdH claims ).

I am sure that Israeli soldiers committed more criminal acts during that war than that single one (a war is a war, which is a fact, not an excuse), the most (in)famous act being Dir Yassin. But why does this historian pick out only one sad horror story that highlights the guilt and cruelty of only one side, and not also mention the massacre - perpetrated by Jordanian and other Arab soldiers and 'irregulars' - of the defenders of Kfar Etzion after they had surrendered, on the eve of the declaration of Israel's independence? Or the massacre of 79 civilians, among them many nurses and doctors, who traveled in a civilian convoy to the Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, one month earlier?

A friend of mine sent me a quote by Hans Teeuwen, a popular Dutch comedian, a quote which illustrates very well the contrast between Chris van der Heijden's passionate plea for a balanced approach to the history of WWII and his utterly one-sided view of the Israeli-Arab/Palestinian conflict, and which might shed some light on the rationale behind his work: "Well, people talk all the time about those Jews and everything, but those Germans were no angels either!"."

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