Part I -- Introducing Fred Skolnik
Soon after my analysis, "In Defense of Richard Falk" (4 November 2012) was published by Media with a Conscience (MWC), the site editor forwarded to me an unusual chastising response. Unusual because it came from a relatively well-known scholar and writer by the name of Fred Skolnik. Mr. Skolnik is the editor in chief of a 22-volume Encyclopedia Judaica (second edition), a work that won the Dartmouth Medal in 2007. He is also the author of numerous works of fiction, all concerning life in Israel. It is not rare for Zionists to take me to task, and Skolnik is most certainly a Zionist. Yet it is rare that those who chastise are of Skolnik's stature. And so, a reply is in order.
Mr. Skolnik does not like Dr. Falk who, the reader might remember, is the present United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Palestinian Territories. And, because I defend Falk, he does not like me either. Indeed, as far as Skolnik is concerned I am part of "an army of Israel haters...churning out endless...venomous half truths" about the Land of Israel. Nonetheless, Skolnik has taken the time to write a three-page commentary to set me and my readers straight.
He says, "I will state Israel's case in as few words as possible, though you of course may not choose to publish this in order not to lose the effect you are aiming at." Well, that is silly. I have no objection to my readers seeing Mr. Skolnik's response. Here is how you can do so: go to the MWC site; search for Davidson; go to "In Defense of Robert Falk" and scroll down to Skolnik's comment.
Part II -- Mr. Skolnik's Arguments
That being said, here is my analysis of elements of Mr. Skolnik's case for Israel.
1. Skolnik: "There is no historic Palestine that has anything to do with the Arabs, nor is there an 'indigenous' or native Muslim population there." This is a very old fantasy or myth that has been developed over the years to allow radical Zionists and violent settlers to rationalize their historical absorption of Palestinian land.
-- Quoting from the Wikipedia entry for Palestinian People, an entry which reflects the latest research into this subject of who was where and when, including genetic analysis, we find that Palestinians are the "modern descendants of those who have lived in Palestine over the centuries, and today are largely culturally and linguistically Arab. ... Genetic analysis suggests that a majority of the Muslims of Palestine, inclusive of the Arab citizens of Israel, are descendants of Christians, Jews and other inhabitants of the southern Levant whose core reaches back to prehistoric times."
-- Furthermore, "a study of high-resolution haplotypes [DNA sequences] demonstrated that a substantial portion of Y chromosomes of Israeli Jews (70%) and of Palestinian Muslim Arabs (82%) belong to the same chromosome pool."
-- What all this means is that the ancestors of those Palestinians who are now culturally and linguistically Arab have been in Palestine for time immemorial. Over the ages, the population fragmented, acquired differing religious, linguistic and cultural traits. Indeed, those indigenous Palestinians, Jews and local Christians as well, are basically the same people gone in somewhat separate cultural ways.
-- Poor Mr. Skolnik. It is a shock that he is so ardently supporting the ethnic cleansing of his own cousins.
2. Skolnik: "Most of the Arabs with 'roots' in the Land of Israel migrated there from other parts of the Arab world in the 19th and early 20th centuries while the Jews have been continuously present in the Land of Israel for well over 3,000 years."
--This is another myth that was most prominently put forth in a book by Joan Peters, published in 1984, and entitled From Time Immemorial. Her argument and evidence were meticulously taken apart and shown to be false by Norman Finkelstein in his Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (1995).
3. Skolnik: "The displacement of the Arabs in the Land of Israel during Israel's war of Independence...was paralleled by the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Arab lands at the time whose lives were made unbearable under vindictive Arab rule." Subsequently, the Israelis "received their Jewish brethren with open arms" while the Arab countries that received Arab refugees "herded them into camps and treated them like animals."
-- For an editor of a 22-volume encyclopedia, Skolnik shows a deplorable tendency to slip into generalizing, stereotyping and lumping together multiple events with multiple outcomes. Here are some counterpoints: