A Glorious Past, Present and Future
September 6, 2004
Last week I was invited to participate in a ‘debate’ to be held before a group of 16 Israel activists. Most of them, in their early twenties, were from Europe. Two-thirds of the group were Jews, and the others Christian, excepting one man, a Turkish Muslim.
My opponent during the debate was Teddy Katz, introduced as a ‘historian.’ Prior to the event, I did some basic internet research to see who I was up against. A ‘leader’ of what is called ‘Gush Shalom’ or the ‘Peace block,’ Katz has, as I quickly discovered, a very colorful history. Let me briefly quote to you from two articles I discovered during a ‘search’ for Teddy Katz:
Teddy Katz, a doctoral candidate at Haifa University was found guilty in a Tel Aviv District Court of making false accusations against the Alexandroni Brigade, a Haganah platoon from the 1948 War of Independence.
The salient facts are these: On May 22, 1948, the Alexandroni Brigade under the command of Bentz Pridan, was ordered by the Haganah High Command to take the Arab village of Tantura, a vital link in the coastal supply route. The elders of the village wished to negotiate a truce but the younger men in the Arab town insisted on a fight. Bitter house-to-house combat followed, leaving 14 Israeli soldiers and 70 Arab villagers dead. The Arab wounded were evacuated and treated in Israeli hospitals.
But Katz had deep suspicions about the official history. His analysis of events, drawn from first hand and supposedly unimpeachable sources, uncovered the slaughter of 200 defenseless Arabs in one of the worst depredations of the war. So confident was he of his thesis that he gave extensive interviews to the press and his story was syndicated by Reuters.
The Brigade’s survivors, infuriated by Katz’s assertion that they had perpetrated a cold-blooded civilian massacre, filed suit to challenge his version. They claimed that Katz had made up the entire story, and that the brigade had conducted its military operations lawfully, appropriately and with honor.
The Court agreed with the plaintiffs and found that not only had Katz fabricated the story, but that much of the Arab testimony he produced to defend his case, contradicted his claims. Cassettes of his interviews were handed to the prosecution who found that in response to questions about the massacre, his interview inquiries had been so leading as to collapse in self-mockery. The court demanded that Katz publicly apologize to the Brigade’s survivors and awarded unspecified damages.
This was written by Avi Davis in November, 2001.
And a second source:
“It was revealed in September 2002 that former Palestinian Authority minister Feisal Husseini paid $8,000 for the legal defense of Teddy Katz… He indicated, however, that he does not believe there have to been anything wrong with taking money from Husseini.” [http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=203871&contrassID=2&subContrassID=1&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y]
So, knowing that a historic liar was going to be sitting opposite me gave me the shivers. He was obviously going to lie through his teeth. The question is, how to approach such an opponent.
I prepared several of my most recent articles to hand out to the group, as well as the above-quoted paragraphs. In truth I planned on reading this to the group at the end of the session in order to prove to them who they were listening to. However, as it turns out, I didn’t have to. He basically did all the dirty work himself.
First of all, he came on very very strong – much too strong. I certainly didn’t mince words and let my opinions be known in the strongest of terms. However, Katz went overboard. From reactions I received later, it became clear that he quickly lost credibility with the listening audience. Of course he had nothing good to say about anyone, from David ben Gurion to our present Prime Minister. But what were his biggest mistakes? First, he claimed that the newly born state of Israel ‘had all the advantages during the War of Independence,’ because they had ‘so long to plan it.’ This as opposed to the Arabs, who, in his eyes, were taken by surprise. I asked him how this could possibly be true, keeping in mind that only three years before Jews had been shoveled into ovens at Aushwitz, as well as the fact that all Arab countries in the world had declared war on the fledgling state, which was hungry not only for food, but also for man-power and weapons.
Katz claimed that Israel had ‘wiped out’ over 550 Arab villages, of which ‘only 50 had taken any military actions against the State.” This was followed by two extraordinary statements: 1) “If I had a choice between this (i.e. – removing Arabs from their homes and villages), or giving up, I would give up”, i.e. relent on the idea of a Jewish state.” 2) Israel is the second largest ethnic-cleansing country in the history of the world, second only to Nazi Germany.
I think these two remarks really blew everyone away. But his last remarks, while summing up, were the real winners. He asked these foreign visitors, and I paraphrase his statements, ‘to go back home and tell your governments that we have problems here, that we don’t know how to take care of ourselves. They should send over their armies and make order here.’
If I hadn’t been sitting down I think I would have fallen down.
At this point I won’t repeat everything I said – those of you that hear me or read my articles know exactly what I think, and I certainly didn’t say anything contrary to my basic beliefs about our rights to the land of Israel.
What is interesting were some of the reactions. As I left the building to drive home, a young man followed me, introduced himself and told me that he is a Muslim from Turkey. One of the subjects that had been broached during the discussion was UN resolution 181 from November 1947, which would have created an Arab majority and Jewish minority, an idea which Teddy Katz did not oppose. Speaking about this, the man said to me, “you know, I’m not an Arab, but I am a Muslim, so I have the opportunity to speak to Arab Muslims freely. You should know that they have all told me the same thing: they would never allow a Jewish minority to live together with an Arab majority.” In other words, they would kill everyone.
Later on, during a group discussion about the debate, one of the group leaders again said that the two people speaking represented the far left and the far right. Again, the Turk raised his hand to comment: ‘What do you mean, far right. I didn’t hear anything far-right. I agreed with just about everything he said, he didn’t say anything wrong and he sounded pretty mainstream to me.’
The end result was that most of these 16 Europeans viewed the representative from Hebron as much more ‘mainstream’ than Teddy Katz, who represented the Arabs much more than he represented Israel. And this was without publicly denouncing him as a proven fraudulent historian. I hope, after reading the material I gave them, the rest of the truth sank in.
This experience left me with two contradictory feelings. On the one hand, I was happy that my presentation was more acceptable to those listening than the ideas presented by my adversary. On the other hand, it was very upsetting to hear such distortions, being delivered as ‘Israeli history’ by an Israeli born Jew, whose views can only be described as ‘self-hatred.’ Teddy Katz must despise himself, belonging to such a ‘terrible people,’ who have committed such ‘horrid crimes.’ After all, we’ve survived. I can only but feel sorry for such people, whose real knowledge and understanding of their people is virtually non-existent, a Jewish people with a past, present and future gloriously second to none.
With blessings from Hebron.