'The Politics of Partition' - TAHA KILINÇ

'The Politics of Partition'

The phrase in the title is the name of the latest book to have been translated into Turkish from among other books written by Avi Shlaim, one of the authors who has been named as the “New Historians” in Israel (Translation: Muttalip Tütüncü, Küre Press). And the subheading of the book is “The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine 1921-1951.”

It would be wise to give a brief introduction regarding the New Historians and Shlaim before moving on to the content of this book, which is one of the most reliable source texts, to have been translated into our language, on the Palestine issue.

With the disclosure of the Israeli state archives in the second half of the 1980s, a group of historians focused their research on the origins of Zionism and the process of the establishment of Israel. This group, including historians such as Benny Morris, Simcha Flapan, Ilan Pappe and Avi Shlaim, revealed that the official history of Israel contained many lies and myths. For instance, the Palestinian Arabs had never left their homeland by their own free will, as it is formally claimed; on the contrary, they were subjected to systematic deportation, terror and massacres by the Zionists. Moreover, the Arabs were not a monolithic formation organized to suffocate and destroy Israel; far from it, the division and internal conflicts in the Arab world made it easier for the Zionists to establish Israel.

Of course, the New Historians, with their studies and the successive works they published, which led to the serious discussions of the establishment period of Israel, faced severe reactions. While the advocates of Zionism, Israeli politicians and academics, supporting the thesis of official history started condemning the New Historians, this group of historians had already managed to break many taboos. The concrete realities they present today continue to find room for themselves in the academy, historiography and the media – despite all the attempts of bringing embargo.

Avi Shlaim is one of the most prominent historians in the New Historians movement. Born as the son of a rich Jewish family, in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in 1945, Shlaim had to leave the country he was born in when he was five years old, in an atmosphere of conflict and chaos that began after the establishment of Israel. Having settled in Israel with his parents, Shlaim began his intellectual enterprise, at the age of 16, which would lead to a complete alteration of mind, when he left to study in the U.K. to At the end of his journey, Shlaim came to hold an extremely critical view of Zionism, in which he supported the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and questioned and judged the roots of the Israeli state in his books.

 “The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine 1921-1951” is one of Shlaim's books in which he clearly lays out his inquisitions regarding the matter. Here, Shlaim presents, with concrete evidence, how the close dialogue and cooperation, Jordan's founding king, Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, established with the Zionists, plays a critical role in the Palestine issue resulting in such a deadlock. Shlaim presents to the reader with historical evidence that the Arab countries of that time focused more on the rivalry and hostility among themselves, rather than on a common struggle against Israel, thus giving them further power and opportunity to occupy. What Shlaim reveals draws a picture of what is happening today. For this reason, it is possible to falter and murmur frequently while reading the book, and remark that, “it is exactly as it is today", "history repeats itself completely", "how could this be,” and sigh about the missed and exhausted opportunities

Another issue the book brings to mind is that the Jordanian Hashemite kingdom still pursues the line of King Abdullah. The Israeli politics of the King, who was shot dead by a Palestinian, at the Masjid al-Aqsa on July 20, 1951 for having too intimate terms with Israel, continues to be multi-dimensionally extended. The Islamic world, however, is still in the disarray and misery of 1921-1951, just as Shlaim extraordinarily depicted.

Last week, we read the news of Yisrael HaYom, one of Israel's best-selling newspapers, of the disturbance with Turkey's activities in Jerusalem. The news report, presented with the photo of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, gave examples from the doings that various Turkish institutions conducted for Jerusalem and Masjid al-Aqsa and presented them as a ‘danger.’ It is surely known that Jordanian intelligence conducted intensive work to provide the material related to the news to the newspaper. Due to the fact that Jordan is the main country perturbed by Turkey's presence in Palestine.

Let us also remember the American gambling billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, who owns Yisrael HaYom, is a close friend of the UAE’s Ambassador to the U.S., Yousef al Otaiba. Considering al Otaiba is an architect of the blockade on Qatar, it is possible to infer who in the Arab world lays the bricks of the wall that is trying to be built against Turkey.

Here, Shlaim’s book is a prominent text in understanding the historical roots and regional connections of the whole equation. It should take first place among the books to be read this summer.

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