Adonis Diaries

Mythologies Without End: The U.S., Israel, and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1917- 2020

Posted on: October 10, 2021

By Jerome Slater, Oxford University Press, 2020, hardcover, 515 pp. MEB $28

Reviewed by Walter L. Hixson

AS THE MASTERS of propaganda, Israel and its various lobbies have long promoted the myth that the Zionist state has always sought to settle the “Middle East conflict,” only to be rebuffed by the ever-recalcitrant Palestinians. (In their fifth Intifada)

Jerome Slater explodes this and other mythologies in a comprehensive study traversing more than a century of the history of the struggle for Palestine.

In 1973, the Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously quipped, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” for peace, but Slater’s meticulous research finds the precise opposite to have been the case.

“Unwilling to make territorial, symbolic, or other compromises, Israel has not merely missed but sometimes even deliberately sabotaged repeated opportunities for peace with the Arab states and the Palestinians.”

A long-time political science professor and the author of numerous previous studies, Slater bears no inherent animus toward Israel, where he has previously lived and lectured widely.

He empathizes with the tragic plight of Jewish history and suffering but he also empathizes with the displaced Palestinians. In the final analysis, his study is an indictment of the Zionist policies of dispossessing Palestinians while at the same time mendaciously blaming the Arabs for supposedly undermining the “peace process.”

Assessing the sweep of history—from the beginning of the conflict over Zionism in World War I to the end of the Binyamin Netanyahu era—Slater leaves little doubt that Israel has worked assiduously to preclude a settlement.

He goes beyond the focus on Israel to critically assess the role of the United States, which has provided “close to unconditional” support “despite serious arguments that it jeopardizes not only U.S. national interests but Israel’s true interests as well.”

Slater joins a growing chorus of analysts and commentators who see through the obvious disinformation campaign that has perpetuated the highly destabilizing Palestine conflict for decades.

The book is full of clear and well-grounded analysis that unpacks and refutes one Israeli myth after another—including the canard that Israel is the “sole democracy” of the Middle East even as it systematically and inhumanely undermines the rights of Palestinian citizens as well as those living in the illegally occupied territories.

The author declares that the “American Jewish community” is “morally obligated” to reassess the uncritical U.S. support that has enabled Israeli land expansion and repression of Palestinians for decades.

Overall, Slater’s analysis of the role of the Israel lobby is limited. For greater understanding of the crucial role of AIPAC and other lobby organizations, readers will have to consult my recent book or the works of Grant F. Smith or the now somewhat dated account of the lobby’s role by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt.

Slater’s book is a devastating refutation of the long history of American-backed Israeli obstructionism. He calls on Israel to reverse the unrelenting course of Zionist history and engage in serious negotiations toward achieving “some kind of compromise peace settlement with the Palestinians.” (What kinds of compromise again from this apartheid Israel?)

For that to occur, Slater argues, American Jewish supporters as well as Israelis will have to abandon the long-prevailing mythologies and face up to the history of repression and stonewalling of peace efforts.

Contrary to mythology, Slater argues, a peace accord would legitimize Israel in Arab eyes rather than delegitimize the Zionist state. (As long as the Syrian people are untied and steadfast, Zionism will never be legitimized)

Mythologies Without End is based on a lifetime of study of a vast secondary literature on the Palestine question rather than an original history based on primary documents.

The book is well organized if somewhat plodding and methodical. Slater offers a useful 48-page “Summary and Conclusions” chapter that emphasizes the main—and ultimately highly compelling—arguments that characterize this important study.

Contributing editor Walter L. Hixson is the author of Architects of Repression: How Israel and Its Lobby Put Racism, Violence and Injustice at the Center of US Middle East Policy and Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict (available from Middle East Books and More), along with several other books and journal articles. He has been a professor of history for 36 years, achieving the rank of distinguished professor.

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October 2021

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