Strategic misrepresentation

Remarkable number of factual errors

On April 25, 2010

To the editor,

In "Pappé's Questionable Content" (Mairghread Ryan, Spectrum, April 14), Professor Ernest Sternberg says that Professor Ilan Pappé's UB lecture on March 24 "bordered on hate speech." It's surprising to read this, since Professor Sternberg did not attend the lecture. (I did, and saw that he was not there.) Moreover, he seems not even to have heard a tape, for he says not one word about the lecture itself. Not just ordinary scholarly ethics, but the Torah itself, has some fairly sharp things to say about "bearing false witness."

And for such a short letter, Professor Sternberg produces a remarkable number of factual errors. The Arab Revolt began in 1936, not 1933. Israel ethnically cleansed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians not just "in the context of a total war," but also in the five months before the Arab armies attacked in May 1948. And no reputable historian of any political persuasion claims any more that the Palestinians left their homes "on their own." The historical record reinforces what common sense would expect: that they left their homes because of violence and the threat of violence.

     Professor Sternberg also engages in strategic misrepresentation. Indeed, it is true that "some" Palestinian refugees left Israeli-occupied Palestine during the Nakba, and that "all" Jewish refugees left the rest of Palestine. But surely the numbers of that "some" (750,000) and that "all" (well under 1% of that) are also worth noting.

     In the future, I strongly encourage Professor Sternberg to speak more accurately, to attend the lectures he wishes to review, and to hear the speech he wishes to label "hate speech."

James Holstun


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