Andrew Sullivan Revises History (Again)

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Andrew Sullivan should be thankful that The Atlantic's fact-checking department has no purview over the magazine's website. The magazine's fact-checkers vet each word that appears in the print magazine for accuracy and context, but because they have no authority over blogs (or anything else produced for the web), Andrew is free to publish malicious nonsense, such as the series of map he published yesterday, maps which purport to show how Jews stole Palestinian land. Andrew does not tell us the source of these maps (in a magazine with standards, the source would be identified), but they were drawn to cast Jews in the most terrible light possible.

The first map in the series of four is most egregious. It suggests that, in 1946, nearly all of the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean was "Palestinian." Land designated as "Jewish" in this map constitutes maybe five percent of the total. This map is ridiculous, not only because the term "Palestinian" in 1946 referred, generally speaking, to the Jews who lived in Palestine, not the Arabs, but because there was no Palestine in 1946 (nor was there an Israel.) There was only the British Mandate. Jews lived throughout the territory then occupied by the British, including, by the way, on land that today constitutes the West Bank (though in 1946 Jews did not live in Hebron; they were expelled in 1929, after an Arab massacre of Jewish religious scholars). The intent of this propaganda map is to suggest that an Arab country called "Palestine" existed in 1946 and was driven from existence by Jewish imperialists. Not only was there no such country as "Palestine" in 1946, there has never been a country called Palestine. Before the British conquered Jerusalem, Palestine was a sub-province of the Ottoman Empire. (And after the British left, of course, Jordan and Egypt moved in to occupy Gaza and the West Bank.)

The next map in the series is a rendering of the U.N. Partition Plan, which would have divided the British mandate into two equal parts, one part for Arabs and one part for Jews. But Andrew neglects to mention that the Jews accepted this partition of Palestine, and that the Arabs rejected it. When Israel declared independence, the Arabs sought to physically eliminate the U.N.-supported Jewish state, but, to their chagrin, they failed. All that happens today flows from the original Arab decision to reject totally the idea that Jews are deserving of a state in part of their historic homeland.

I dont know why Andrew refuses to admit that Middle East history is complicated. Once, he was rabidly pro-Israel, and refused to acknowledge legitimate Palestinian Arab claims and grievances. Now, he is rabidly pro-Palestinian and refuses to acknowledge Israel's legitimate claims and grievances. Perhaps it is malevolence that motivates his campaign to demonize the world's only Jewish country. On the other hand, as our colleague Clive Crook noted earlier this week, "Andrew has so many opinions to ventilate, and so little time to think about them," that the publication of this absurd map on his blog could simply have been a mistake.

UPDATE: When I implied above that a magazine with standards would not allow Andrew to misinterpret history, I should have stated that the Atlantic's website has no fact-checking standards, and not that it has no standards at all.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2010/03/andrew-sullivan-revises-history-again/37401/