The Sad Lesson of Alan Hart

Sailing against a strong prevailing wind is not easy, certainly not like breezing along with the wind to your back. Author Alan Hart discovered that truth in criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, but his acceptance of defeat should not stop others from advocating for truth and justice, says Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

Alan Hart is an author and a journalist, the former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Britain’s Independent Television News and a former BBC Panorama presenter whose beat was the Middle East. He has written a number of books, including Arafat: Terrorist or Peacemaker? (1984) and the three-volume Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews (2009-2010).

He is also a longtime activist for various causes, particularly his three-decade struggle on behalf of justice for the Palestinian people.

Volume One of Alan Hart’s trilogy, “Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.”

On April 25, Alan Hart literally turned in his resignation letter. In it he states, “I am withdrawing from the battlefield of the war for the truth of history as it relates to making and sustaining of the conflict in and over Palestine.” Why did he do this? In Hart’s opinion, the struggle for justice in Palestine is “mission impossible.” [See’s “Pursuing Truth about Israel/Palestine.”]

The information/propaganda war between Zionists and those, such as himself, supporting the Palestinians (which, in any case, had always been “the most asymmetric of all information wars”) is lost. He notes that the Western media still follow a Zionist line and asserts that most of the Western populations remain either pro-Israel or indifferent to the Israeli-Palestinian struggle.

Hart blames this alleged Zionist victory in the propaganda war on a lack of financial support for those trying to write and speak out for Palestinian justice, and contrasts their plight to the situation of the Zionist writers and advocates, who enjoy almost unlimited funds.

Hart feels it is mainly wealthy Palestinians and other Arabs who have failed to support pro-Palestinian activists. These wealthy Arabs have failed to step forward because they either are afraid of Zionist retribution that would damage their businesses or careers, or are afraid of their own Arab governments, which do not want trouble with Israel because of assertive actions by pro-Palestinian wealthy citizens.

Hart’s Plight

With all due respect to Mr. Hart, who certainly does deserve our respect, I can’t help asking myself whether his assessment of this “war for the truth of history” is objectively true or an expression of personal disappointments. According to his own explanation, his decision to leave the struggle is connected to the fact that Arab publishers and media failed to financially support and promote his recent book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews.

This was a great disappointment to him because the Arab media had serialized his prior work on Yasser Arafat and this had brought him “a significant income.” He had obviously made the assumption that the situation would repeat itself.

So strong was that expectation that, as Mr. Hart tells us in his resignation statement, he made certain decisions, such as mortgaging his property in order to support the production of the Zionism study, which have now brought him into financial distress. Hart appears to see the failure of Arab money to come to his assistance as indicative of Arab failure to support the Palestinian cause.

As disappointing as the Arab failure to promote Hart’s important work on Zionism may be, it is not accurate to conclude, as Hart does, that most wealthy Arabs “do not care about the occupied and oppressed Palestinians.” Before the first Iraq war, both public and private Arab money generously supported the PLO. Yasser Arafat’s attempt to mediate that conflict and prevent a war against Iraq stopped most (but never all) of that support.

Whether the wealthy Arabs could now do much more is another question. However, and this is an important point, this is not the same question as to whether Western supporters of the Palestinian cause should or should not give up.

Hart is correct that in the past 30 years supporters of Palestinian justice have not been able to create the necessary critical mass of public opinion to change the policies of national governments. However, that does not mean there has been no progress. It does not mean this is a lost cause.

I, too, have been a strong supporter of the Palestinians for decades, and I have seen a tremendous difference over time. Thirty years ago you could not critically raise the subject of Israel in public, and thus the Zionists had a monopoly on the entire history of this issue. That is emphatically not the case today.

Despite Alan Hart’s unfortunate experience, the fact is that, at a popular level, the Zionists have lost control of the Palestine narrative. There are other real positive signs in this struggle that Hart fails to mention, including the progress of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement; the continuing maturation of counter-lobbies, particularly in the United States; and the growing worldwide recognition of Israeli criminality, which has slowly increased that country’s sense of isolation. In other words, there is more to this than the Arab failure to support Mr. Hart’s latest work.

Measuring Success

One has to also understand that success and failure come on many levels. On the macro level, progress is slow, but as pointed out above, it is far from nonexistent. Sometimes you just need to know where to look to see the ongoing activity.

For instance, in the case of the United States, there are a growing number of organizations that are constantly busy getting out the message of Israeli crimes and the Palestinian demand for justice. There are the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (a coalition of almost 400 member groups and organizations), Jewish Voices for Peace, and the Council for the National Interest, to name just a few.

The struggle against Israeli apartheid might well be, as it was in the case of South Africa, multigenerational. But among the many organizations waging this struggle there is no sign of slacking.

On the micro level, success comes when one is consistently true to one’s principles in a manner that is personally acceptable. No one is asking Western supporters of the Palestinian cause to go bankrupt or put themselves in physical danger, although in the latter case notably heroic individuals such as Rachel Corey and Tom Hurndall have chosen to do so, with tragic results.

However, there are less dangerous routes. To do what you can in a steady, consistent way for a just cause in which you believe is already to have achieved success at the personal level. We struggle not only for the cause, but also because of who we are.

Alan Hart is an admirable man who has done admirable things, and we all owe him our thanks for his contributions to the Palestinian cause. But his decision to retire from the field should in no way be taken as a sign that that cause is lost. It is emphatically not lost. It has made significant progress over the past three decades and it is well positioned to make more progress in the future.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

11 comments for “The Sad Lesson of Alan Hart

  1. Dar
    May 26, 2013 at 04:42

    “Those who now call themselves ‘Palestinians’ have shown an unremitting hated of Israel, and their charters and documents still call for the destruction of the country. How do you forge peace with those who want to kill you?”

    And they’re right.

    Why would any Palestinians recognize a nation founded on his land?

  2. Philip Feeley
    May 19, 2013 at 03:20

    Perhaps we need to start calling the U.S. anti-Semite. The Palestinians are Semites, after all!

  3. elmerfudzie
    May 18, 2013 at 20:20

    The middle east does not have a present day Arab political firgure who can fill the shoes of Gamal Abdel Nasser. Add to this void, a lasting humiliation following the ’67 war and petty inter ethnic rivalry not unlike prejudices found between European peoples and countries. Columnist Khaled Abu Toameh recently wrote a column on this subject and after reading it, one cannot help but come away with a feeling that Palestinians have been branded as the new “wigger”. In fairness to the GCC countries, up until ten years ago they mutually agreed to engage in a primary and secondary boycott of those corporations doing business with Israel. For reasons closely associated with acquiring the latest military hardware, the restrictions were dropped, and one cannot overlook other factors such as an ever increasing economic interdependency or “globalization”. In the last analysis, the Palestinian people who at one time in ancient history, were Philistines, resided in several coastal towns from Ashod to Gaza. They were traders and navigators who fought against “the sons of Israel” two thousand years ago and this warring continues today: I footnote here,1 Samuel 4. Gaza stood firmly against Israel’s attempted conquests and was an object of hate for many a biblical prophet, examples; Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Zechariah. However the dispute goes even further back in historical time, to Abraham and Hagar; Ref Genesis 16:15 and how Abraham sent his son Ishmael (the father of all Arabians) away. Reference Genesis 25:5. The loss of Ishmaels’ primogeniture and the whole estate was handed to Issac, Abraham’s’ second son. In effect, the issues remain an inheritance claim held by and disputed by the half brother of Israel. Ordinarily, family feuds are left to their own devises but we’re all in it now, the world’s a much smaller place! In the USA most of us know who the modern day “Hatfield’s” are (Israel) and who the “Mc Coys” are (Palestinians). I can only hope this little history lesson of the West Virginia-Kentucky feuding families will serve as a warning and influence the warring parties in a positive way. In light of these arguments, I’m not too hopeful.

  4. Vesuvius
    May 18, 2013 at 04:55

    Unfortunately, as Alan Hart reports, the Zionists continue to have the upper hand. A recent example: World-known British physicist Stephen Hawking was scheduled to appear in a conference in Israel, in June. However, as reported in most big media, on the Internet and elsewhere, in the beginning of May he declined to participate. First, the reason given was because of health problems. But just a few days later, Professor Hawking let it be known that his abstention is a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) action, i.e. he takes a clear position against Israel’s criminal policies against the Palestinians.

    However, here in Sweden, where I live, the silence about this news has been absolutely complete, and still is. The big newspapers in Stockholm report nothing whatsoever on this. The self-censoring in Swedish media, as a result of the Zionist Lobby’s machinations here, is scaring.

    Another example:

    During Israel’s “Cast Lead Operation”, i.e. the terrible assault on Gaza in 2008-2009, members of the Jewish congregation in Malmö (site for this year’s European Song Contest, ESC) went around, demonstrating FOR Israel and “its right to defend itself”. In a comment on this, the Mayor of the city expressed a concern, asking the demonstrators why they did not demonstrate AGAINST the war instead. In media, the Mayor was immediately called an “anti-semite” and was met with a lot of angry comments. Later, U.S. President Obama even sent a U.S. special envoy in matters of “anti-semitism”, Ms Hanna Rosenthal, to lecture the Mayor because of his alleged “anti-semitism”.

    However, I recommend ONE Israeli newspaper, which can and does print reports and opinions that would be unthinkable in Swedish media, and probably media in some other countries: The Haaretz. Check the reports by Gideon Levy, Barak Ravid and a few others. Not only are they giving the truth, they are also presenting it in a most uncompromising, nay even brutal manner.

  5. incontinent reader
    May 17, 2013 at 21:52

    Hart has been one of the very best journalists on the Palestinian question, and frankly, he could have been helped by those wealthier Palestinians who had benefited from his work and the message it communicated. This doesn’t mean it’s over for him, because life does change as perceptions change, even though right now there may be reason to be pessimistic.

  6. Otto Schiff
    May 17, 2013 at 17:01

    As in many conflict situations, it is very difficult to be objective.
    I do not defend any kind of injustice, but Palestine was one of
    the few places where Jews could escape the European mass murderers.
    This does not excuse any mistreatment of the Arab population but the slogan about Jews and Zionism is pure nonsense.

      May 17, 2013 at 23:07

      “Palestine was one of the few places where Jews could escape the European mass murderers.”

      But in doing so, they displaced people who had lived in Palestine for centuries. The United States could, and should have offered the best refuge for European Jews, but U.S. anti-Jewish policies prevented that, to the eternal shame of the U.S. (i.e. the S.S. St. Louis).

      Please read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine as well as The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel and The Bureaucracy of Evil: The History of the Israeli Occupation by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, The Invention of the Jewish People by Israeli Historian Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Land of Israel by Shlomo Sand, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World by British/Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine by Miko Peled and Eyes in Gaza by Mads Gilbert, Erik Fosse, Guy Puzey, and Frank Stewart.

      • Malcolm McIntyre
        May 22, 2013 at 05:13

        Have you taken the name “borat” because you fancy yourself as a Jewish comedian? Or do you just look good in a man-thong?

  7. rosemerry
    May 17, 2013 at 15:05

    I value both Alan Hart’s immense contributions and Lawrence Davidson’s thoughtful writing. I have only in recent years even noticed the Zionist/Palestinian situation, and realise that so many Westerners are as ignorant as I was, and so they believe the very one-sided MSM, made mucgh worse in recent years by the demonising of Muslims at all levels.
    I live in France, whose population contains ten times as many Muslims as Jews, yet the Zionist influence at all political levels is strong, and “Islamic terrorists” are targeted with fanfares. I wonder how young, discriminated-against French Muslims feel when they observe so many political acts showing they are “different”. Most are as religious as the rest of the population (!!) and as likely to be violent ie average.

  8. David
    May 17, 2013 at 14:11

    I just finished reading Transfer Agreement by Edwin Black. This is one of the best books on pre-WWII History and Holocaust that I have ever read. Said best by one of the reviewers: “Informative, Exciting, Challenging and Morally Disturbing”

    If you take the time to read Transfer Agreement, your understanding of the influence of Zionsim on world history over the past century will be changed forever!

    • susan
      May 21, 2013 at 09:06

      I agree – see if you can find a copy of Black’s “IBM and the Holocaust” – it will illuminate as well.

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