So sorry we won

A Haaretz article about the state of knowledge of the Israeli leadership of massacres committed during the 1948 war was the springboard for follow ups by way of a sneering editorial and a poisonous piece from the usual suspect, Gideon Levy.

None of this was politically or culturally surprising – it’s Haaretz, after all, and criticism of Israel, Zionism, and its history is just about it’s raison d’être.

What is surprising, from about an objective a stance as I can muster, is that none of these warriors for justice acknowledges the reality of war: bad things happen. Bad people commit atrocities. Good people – or, if you prefer – people on the side of good – commit atrocities too.

For example, did you know that during D-Day, more than half of the 130 German soldiers captured alive, never made it alive into the Prisoner-of-War collection point on Omaha Beach? Did you know that the British sank three Italian hospital ships during World War Two? You probably did know about the Soviet Union’s Katyn massacre. These are merely examples. There are many more – that we know of.

War is a dirty business. Its price is paid for by the blood of the young and the innocent and we should avoid it at all costs. But if you cannot avoid it, the cauldron of the fight for victory or survival or both will surely lead to crimes. To think otherwise is a naivety beyond foolish.

To be clear, I am not excusing any war crimes. All should be prosecuted. All should be punished. But, for starters, I’m not taking any finger wagging moral lectures from any European or American over what happened in 1948; their hands are not clean. And I’m at a loss to understand why these Haaretz pieces only go on about atrocities allegedly committed by Jews.

Into the breach steps Uri Misgav with his excellent rejoinder Jews Were Massacred in 1948 Too, So Why Dwell Only on the Nakba?

As he says:

It was a life-and-death war, brutal and bloody. The Jewish community lost fully 1 percent of its population (6,000 killed out of a population of 600,000), and a 10th of the remainder became refugees in their own country.  [snip]  However, with time’s passage, it has become politically incorrect to talk about Jewish fighters who were killed (some of them were young, others were older and had families, there were new immigrants with no military training who hadn’t even managed to learn Hebrew, Holocaust survivors, women and in some cases teenagers), or about civilians who were murdered or settlements that were evacuated and destroyed, and whose residents became refugees.


Today there is apparently only the Nakba: It consists of the killing and expulsion of Arabs, Palestinian villages that were destroyed and Palestinian refugees. This historiographic distortion, with its absurd and immoral lack of symmetry, is the apple of the eye among certain circles in Israel, Arabs and Jews alike.

Haaretz serves as a generous and enthusiastic platform for this willful blindness. It enables the Palestinian citizens of Israel, like my colleagues Odeh Basharat and Hanin Majadli, speaking on behalf of Arab society, to shirk off all responsibility for its fate – from the 1948 war up until the present day. The Palestinians, since then and for all time to come, are solely passive, innocent victims of the Zionist project of evil. There are of course also Jews who see it this way, in academia and in the media. Gideon Levy is a prime example.


What we have here is a truly ecstatic celebration of exaggeration, falsehoods and self-undermining and flagellation, and wallowing in feelings of guilt. If we truly want to pursue a serious discussion of the 1948 war, it must be balanced. If the truth, then the whole truth.


If the ideal is the sanctity of historical research and truth, we need to ask where the Palestinian versions of Adam Raz, Akevot Institute and Zochrot are. In any event, my Haaretz colleagues don’t make do with clarifying the facts and often seem to feel that Israelis are required to offer an “apology.” It’s disheartening to be dragged back there again 74 years after the war erupted, but the apology was already formulated by Ephraim Kishon in his genius: “So sorry we won.”

Do read the whole article.

Now you know where the title for this post came from.