Sunday, June 14, 2009

Prof. Daniel Bar-Tal (Tel Aviv University): It's the Zionism, Stupid!

*Tel-Aviv University – Daniel Bar-Tal (Dept of Psychology) reveals new
gospel – Zionism is the main obstacle to peace*

*Would you buy a research from an academic who uses it merely to reinforce
his own ideological prejudice? From somebody who thinks that the Second
Intifada was actually provoked by Israel? From a man who believes that
Zionism is the mother of all evil? And from the same lecturer who wants to
silence his critics by complaining to the university authorities. From Tel
Aviv University psychologist comes:*

*It's the Zionists, stupid!*
By Alon Ben Shaul A new anti-Jewish gospel was revealed to us mortals
recently from the enlightened Left encamped within Tel-Aviv University. It
is this: for peace to be achieved in the Middle East, the Israelis must
recognize their responsibility for the "tragedy" that they inflicted upon
the Palestinians in 1948. As long as the Israelis deny their collective
guilt for the Palestinians becoming refugees and deny that the Palestinians
were maliciously expelled by them, then all reconciliation is a pipe dream.
Hence, Israel's acknowledging Arab "suffering" is a key to reaching a
settlement in the region. Embracing Zionist "dogma" is, accordingly the main
obstacle to peace. In short, "holding such a Zionist narrative serves as an
obstacle to peace since it promotes negative emotions, mistrust,
de-legitimization and negative stereotypes of Arabs and Palestinians." The
author of those words is Daniel Bar-Tal, a University of Tel-Aviv Professor
of Educational Psychology. No wonder. He (jointly with his colleague Rafi
Nets-Zehngut) is behind what he himself considers "pioneering research" into
the Jewish collective memory of 1948. His conclusion was: "Israeli Jews'
consciousness is characterized by a sense of victimization, a siege
mentality, blind patriotism, belligerence, self-righteousness,
dehumanization of the Palestinians and insensitivity to their
suffering…" Bar-Tal
laments the fact that his study shows that most Israelis accept the
'official version' (or "narrative") of the conflict's history with the
Palestinians, the one where the Jews are the victims of Arab terrorism,
genocidal aggression and hatred. "Most of the nation retains a simplistic
collective memory of the conflict, a black-and-white memory that portrays us
in a very positive light and the Arabs in a very negative one…" 1 But
Bar-Tal has a new "revelation" based on a biased public opinion survey that
he conducted. In it he finds surprising self-denunciatory attitudes on the
part of Israeli Jews regarding Israel's ongoing conflict with Arabs and
Palestinians. With regard to the main historical event of the conflict - the
1948 Palestinian exodus – Bar-Tal reports: "39% of Israeli Jews surveyed
believe expulsion by Israel was one of the factors leading to that exodus,
in addition to Palestinian fear and the call of Arabs/Palestinian leaders to
leave." (In reality, 39% of those he surveys say isolated instances of
forced expulsion of Arabs played some role in the Palestinian flight
from Israel,
among many other factors.) This finding is a source of satisfaction for
Bar-Tal and his co-researcher and they explain: "The fact that we found this
memory of the conflict to be somewhat critical (even though the conflict is
still going on) is encouraging. It suggests that the Israeli-Jewish society
has changed to become more critical, open and self-reflective, allowing it
to adopt less biased narratives."2 Bar-Tal, true to the familiar rhetoric of
the Tel Aviv Leftist clique, believes that expressing Israeli "guilt" over
the 1948 events offers a remedy for the future. In his opinion, the fact
that 39% of Israeli Jews supposedly believe in the "expulsion theory" proves
that they are self-critical and feel evil and guilty. But it is clear as day
that the formulation of the question in the survey was totally flawed. Even
if 39% of Israelis indeed believe that some "expulsion" was a component of
the Palestinian exodus, one should have asked them to elaborate. After all,
many would have said that some cases of "expulsion" were inevitable, since
the alternative was a total annihilation of the *Yishuv*, the Jewish
population of pre-state Israel. They may have also added that cases of
"expulsion" were responses to the war that was waged against the Jewish
Community by the belligerent and aggressive Arab firepower. The
"researchers" write that Israelis think that instances of "expulsion" were
"one of the factors" leading to that exodus, "in addition to Palestinian
fear and the call of the Arab/Palestinian leaders to leave." One of the
factors, along with things like disruption of food supplies and fear of
being caught in the crossfire? In other words, these 39% of Israelis
actually claim there were a host of reasons for the Palestinians becoming
refugees, and cases of "expulsion" were only one of them. So why is it that
the "expulsion theory" response is separated out and celebrated by Bar-Tal
in complete divorce from these other factors? In other words, how can this
survey be taken seriously by any social scientist? As it turns out, in the
survey itself (in which only 500 people participated), only 8% of Israelis
said they believe the Palestinian refugees were in the main "expelled" by
the Jews That figure was added to Bar-Tal's magical "39%," the people who
said some instances of expulsion did take place, and the total sum of 47%
became the headline for a press release issued by the "researchers." That
headline was picked up by the Columbia Teachers College in New York, where
Nets-Zehngut is doing his PhD, and has been very widely quoted in the media
ever since. It typically reads: "Study Surprisingly Finds 47% of
Israeli-Jews believe that the 1948 Palestinian Refugees were expelled by
Israel." But the survey responses were intentionally manipulated and
distorted by these "academics," no doubt for purposes of serving their
ideological agenda. Needless to say, Bar-Tal himself did not conduct any
survey among the Palestinians. One can only assume that 100% of those who
live in Gaza, Nablus and Jaffa would reject the "Zionist narrative" and
blame Israel entirely for creating the refugee problem. No doubt the vast
majority would say that the Jews have no right at to any land in the Middle
East. However, Bar-Tal and his crowd never bother to collect surveys of
Palestinians or other Arabs. That way he never has to blame them for being
an "obstacle to peace." He also intentionally overlooks the fact that his
own survey shows that 41% of Israelis accept the "Zionist narrative" in full
and reject the claim that even some instances of partial expulsion of
Palestinians took place in 1948. These people say that there is one and only
one reason for the Palestinians becoming refugees and that is that they fled
at their leaders' behest and on their own accord. This finding depresses
Bar-Tal and he wrings his hands over it. The lesson he draws from it is that
the Israeli public has not changed its reactionary racist views, even in the
aftermath of the last military Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. "Is it any
wonder," he asks, "that the same public also buys the establishment
explanation of the operation in Gaza?" *The "truth" about Camp David* Bar-Tal
has a habit of placing the onus for continuing Middle East hostilities upon
Israel in his "research" and media interviews. Parts of his survey addressed
the failure of the Camp David summit in spring 2000. Bar-Tal notes the "hard
line" that was taken by Israeli Jews: " 56% believe that Yasser Arafat
declined a very generous peace offer by Ehud Barak because he did not want
peace with Israel, versus only 25% who believe both parties were responsible
for the failure and 3% who believed that Barak was responsible." In other
words, 56% of Israelis dared to tell the truth in their response to his
questions! But in the same paragraph in the same press release about his own
"pioneering work," the Bar-Tal turns our attention to another historical
event. The researchers report that 60% of those surveyed replied that in the
1947 United Nations' partition plan of the Land of Israel/Palestine, the
Palestinians received an equal or larger part of the territory, relative to
their percentage of its population. However, they remind us, "The facts are
that the partition plan, which was rejected by the Palestinians, offered
them (about 2/3 of the total population then) a smaller part of the
territory (only 44%)." Benjamin Disraeli would have called this lying with
statistics. The professor wants to tell us that the Israelis have no
knowledge of their own history, hence their negative bigoted attitude to
their enemies. And their "ignorance" over the Partition Plan is a proof. But
the inevitable conclusion that any informed reader will draw is that Bar-Tal
is simply twisting the facts. In doing so he shows that he lacks all shred
of academic integrity. It also shows how his "survey" was conducted with no
measure of good faith. They try to give the impression that if the Jewish
population of 1948 or Yishuv was offered a territory that was smaller than
the one offered to the Palestinian-Arabs, the latter would have accepted it
and the conflict would have been avoided. The truth, as we all know, is that
the Arabs rejected any territorial compromise or any sort, while the Jews
were willing to embrace any stretch of land on which they could have a
homeland. Moreover, the Arabs were opposed the existence of any Jewish
community in Palestine, as they demonstrated by perpetuating the massacres
of the 1920s and 1930s. And what about the fact that the land offered to
Israel was the least fertile and was not heavily populated by Arabs?
Finally, Bar-Tal takes as the defining demographic balance that which was
in place in November of 1947, when the UN passed its partition proposal. But
that partition was designed to create a Jewish state into which millions of
homeless refugees could be absorbed. The Arabs already had a large number of
oppressive undemocratic states in their control and had no moral claim at
all for getting one more in the Land of Israel. The Bar-Tal study also found
that older Israelis and more religious ones are more likely to believe what
they call the "Zionist narrative." Furthermore, those supporting the
"Zionist narrative" were significantly less likely to support peace
agreements with the Palestinians and Syria, "pointing to the important role
of collective memory in conflicts." In addition, a strong connection was
found between the collective memory of "past Jewish persecution" (regarding
anti-Semitism and the Holocaust) and understanding of the conflict. People
holding a strong memory of Jewish persecution are much more likely to adopt
the "Zionist narrative." This memory of persecution is discussed as one of
the determinants of Israel's evil conduct in the conflict. In other words,
holding the "Zionist narrative" is a recipe for intransigence and serves as
an obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Zionism, especially when it is
based on Jewish history, is THE problem. And as long as its believers do not
abandon Zionism and cure themselves of it, the conflict will continue. *Those
terrible TERRIBLE Israelis…*

No one would mistake Bar-Tal for a serious scholar, but he has been a
consistent one. He was obsessed with the evils of Zionism throughout his
academic career. Long ago he published a study of 124 textbooks used by
Israeli elementary, middle and high schools in Israel from the 1950s through
1970s. He found them "supremacist and racist." He claimed that Arabs in
these books were associated with* "primitiveness, inferiority, cruelty,
brutality, untrustworthiness, fanaticism, treacherousness and
aggressiveness."* *3* They were also described as *"murderers," "rioters,"
"deviate," "cruel," "immoral," "unfair," "robbers," "killers,"
"bloodthirsty" "suspicious," "unenlightened," "fatalistic," "unproductive,"
"apathetic," "tribal," "vengeful," "exotic," "poor," "sick," "dirty,"
"noisy," "colored" and "easily inflamed*." The Jews were portrayed as
"brave" and determined to cope with the difficulties of improving the
country in ways they believe the Arabs are incapable of."* Bar-Tal has never
bothered to conduct any study of Arab textbooks or what they say about Jews.

Bar-Tal's "research" on school stereotypes was seized by the *Washington
Report on Middle East Affairs*,*4* which published an interview with the
author about the study under the headline "Israeli Textbooks and Children's
Literature Promote Racism and Hatred toward Palestinians and Arabs.".

Bar-Tal told the writer, Maureen Meehan, "*This attitude served to justify
the return of the Jews, implying that they care enough about the country to
turn the swamps and deserts into blossoming farmland; this effectively
delegitimizes the Arab claim to the same land*," He also added that *"the
message was that the Palestinians were primitive and neglected the country
and did not cultivate the land."*

In his book, "Stereotypes and Prejudice in Conflict: Representations of
Arabs in Israeli Jewish Society" (co-written with Yona Teichman), he
maintained that the Middle East conflict is kept alive by the stereotypes
that the Israelis hold about the Arabs (but not the other way around!),
while providing no evidence of this.*5* More tellingly, the book ignores the
naked incitements and blood libels that exist in Palestinian schoolbooks, a
subject that has been widely discussed during the Oslo process. The Arab
revival of the *Protocols of the Elders of Zion*, their embracing *Der
Sturmer-style* propaganda, and their calls for genocide are all absent from
their book. The authors also refrain from exposing readers to what is so
widespread in the Arab media – the demonization of Jews as those who
supposedly spread AIDS by using prostitutes, poison wells, shoot depleted
uranium to cause infertility, drink children's blood for Passover,
contaminate food, and so on. While not even mentioning Arab cartoons,
Bar-Tal and sidekick prefer to ignore the simple fact that Israel is under
constant existential threat. Bar-Tal argues that these images are designed
merely to raise a sense of fear and insecurity among the Israeli Jews.

With a similar approach in 2007, he analyzed the role of the Gadna "youth
corps" (preparatory course for teenagers before joining the army), and after
studying its pre-military training described it as "unduly militaristic." The
new Gadna program includes training in squad-sized operations, night treks
and shooting, designed to prepare young Israeli boys and girls before they
become IDF conscripts. However, Bar-Tal said in an interview that *"one gets
the impression that the program was prepared in the 1950s, in the previous
century.* *It perpetuates a security-minded outlook."* By that he meant
something not good. His colleague, Matanya Ben Artzi, a far-leftist
professor of mathematics from the Hebrew University, called it a "takeover
by the army of the high school" and "wiping out of the values of an entire
*Gaza? It's not what you think…* Bar-Tal draws a direct line between Haifa,
1948 to Gaza, 2008, raising the suspicion that all his references to the
"Zionist dogma" are actually attempts at undermining the legitimacy of
Israel. His "pioneering research study," (dealing with Israeli Jews' memory
of the conflict with the Arabs "from its inception to the present," as he
describes it) coincided with the recent battle in Gaza. The sweeping Israeli
support for "Operation Cast Lead" discouraged Bar-Tal and convinced him that
Israelis are little more than warmongering thugs, and "that this public
would exchange the drums of war for the cooing of doves." This professor of
educational psychology from Tel Aviv University goes on to say that the
Jewish memory contains "collective emotions such as fear, hatred and anger,
turns into a psycho-social infrastructure of the kind experienced by nations
that have been involved in a long-term violent conflict. This infrastructure
gives rise to the culture of conflict in which we and the Palestinians are
deeply immersed, fanning the flames and preventing progress toward
peace."Bar-Tal claims that, in such a situation, it is hard even to
imagine a
possibility that the two nations will be capable of overcoming their
psychological obstacles without outside help. Bar-Tal believes that
Israeli-Jewish society is at fault and that it has a significant way to go
in "changing its collective memory to become less biased and self serving."
In his opinion many Israeli Jews still believe a Zionist narrative about
many issues in the history of the conflict – which he claims is a simplistic
memory of the conflict which portrays Israelis in a positive light and the
Arabs/Palestinians in a negative one. In other words, holding the Zionist
narrative is the source of the problem and if the Israeli citizens do not
change their DNA, the conflict will stay with us for ever. Never mind that
the Zionist "narrative" is the truth and that the anti-Zionist "narrative"
is a collection of lies and distortions.

Bar-Tal finds another link between 1948 and 2008: he thinks that the Israeli
public did not mature enough since the establishment of its state and so it
is as easy to brainwash it about the Palestinian exodus as it as about the
recent military operation in Gaza. In an article published in the virulently
anti-Israel *Kibush* website he accuses his fellow Israelis of "blind
patriotism," holding a "desire for vengeance" and "self-righteousness."*7*

The Gaza military operation, he believed, was motivated by *"the wish to
erase the feeling of failure in the Second Lebanese War during the summer of
2006; they reflect a deep sense of collective victimhood because of the
continuous firing of rockets on civilian settlements in the south by the
Hamas military organ*. *This sense of victimhood led to the urge to revenge
in order to punish for the harm done and prevent further firing. In
addition, they are derived from the continuous dehumanization of the Hamas
organization. Finally, they are based on the conviction that Israel withdrew
from the Gaza Strip in 2005, allowing Palestinians to live their lives and
they instead engage in terror."*

Bar-Tal argues that Middle East reality is much more complex than the
"narrative perpetuated by the Israeli political and military establishments,
which successfully constructed the beliefs of the Jewish public in Israel."
In his opinion, most Israeli Jews do not know that originally Hamas was
founded by the Israeli authorities (a completely false claim) to provide an
alternative to the national movement of PLO; or that Hamas is a
religious-fundamental movement that also provides welfare, health and
educational services to civilians (so did the German Nazi Party); or that
Hamas was elected democratically (with the insistence of USA) to lead the
government of the Palestinian authority because of Fatah corruption (So

In fact Bar-Tal's factual errors fail to dislodge his intense sense of
superiority to his ignorant fellow countrymen. Does the fact that Hamas also
tries to extend its control over Palestinians via civilian services somehow
serve to legitimize it as something other than a genocidal terrorist group?
Does the fact that Hamas supports the widows of suicide bombers or supplies
the mosques with Koran books, makes it some sort of humanitarian NGO? Hamas
may have been "democratically" elected in elections with no freedom of
speech nor of the press and overflowing with violence, but Bar-Tal fails to
mention the fact that the international community refuses to recognize it
because of its policy. That includes unwillingness to renounce violence,
honor past agreements and recognize Israel.

While claiming that the unilateral disengagement from Gaza was done to
delegitimize the Palestinian Authority, Bar-Tal goes on to adopt Palestinian
propaganda as is, by saying that "Gaza has been turned into one big prison"
since the IDF controls its borders. Just how Israel, which removed not only
its soldiers from Gaza but also its civilians, is "imprisoning" Gazans is
unclear. What really upsets Bar-Tal is that Israel has the nerve to prevent
Gazans from entering Israel and murdering Israelis. And while mentioning in
passing the Gazan rocket attacks against Israeli citizens, Bar-Tal asserts
that the smuggling tunnels into Gaza through which the weapons were brought
were built *"mainly to smuggle civil goods that could not be brought to Gaza
and not only weapons as the great majority believe." *And Pearl Harbor was
bombed because the Japanese desired American fast food.

Indeed one can only marvel at Bar-Tal's skills at producing disinformation
when he says that *"few of the Israeli Jews recognize that Israel during two
years had at least two alternative strategies to prevent further escalation;
either to talk with Hamas which is possible and negotiate long-term
cease-fire, or take decisive actions of peace..."* And if you raise an
eyebrow, he will add that *"most of the Israeli Jews do not know that it was
possible to negotiate continuation of the cease fire with Hamas and do not
remember that it was Israel who broke the ceasefire of November 4, 2008,
killing 6 Palestinians."*

One wonders if the writer's tendency towards baseless fantasies derives from
his wishful thinking. Back in reality, it was Hamas that has declared so
often that it would never negotiate with Israel, let alone recognize its
right to exist. It was Hamas that refused to prolong the ceasefire
agreement, to the dismay of the Palestinian Authority and the fury of Egypt.

But Bar-Tal is adamant. Bar-Tal loves to use the phrase "extremists on both
sides,"*8* as if Jewish suicide bombers are roaming free on the Israeli
side. While admitting that Hamas is not his cup of tea, "as it is a
fundamentalist religious organization that practices also terrorism," he
insists that it is not a homogenous movement. As such, *"it is possible to
hear in it different voices including ones that support negotiation with
Israel and acceptance of the two state solution." *Sure, like in Nazi
Germany and Stalinist Russia.

Mysteriously and perhaps clinically, Bar-Tal hears voices that do not reach
the ears of others. He thinks that Israeli society is too embedded in the
conflict to be exposed to voices of peace reaching out to it from Gaza,
those same imaginary voices he hears. By the same token, he alleges, even
the blame for the failure of the Camp David summit should be placed, fairly
and squarely, on the Jews' shoulders. And even if Arafat had his faults, it
is Israel that supposedly is holding almost all the cards to resolve the
conflict, since it *"occupies the land, holds Eastern Jerusalem, controls
the life of the Palestinians, controls the resources of the West Bank,
expands constantly the Jewish settlements on the West Bank, exercises
preventive and punishing violent acts according to its own will and has
almost unconditional backing of* *the superpower."*

*Watch out! McCarthyism!*
One might assume that, despite these views, it is still possible for honest
people to conduct debate with "academics" like Bar-Tal. One would be wrong.
What Bar-Tal wants is to monopolize the entire public arena of debate for
people holding his own views. And he wants to achieve this by gagging
others. He seeks to silence his opponents. He wants the exclusive right to
smear those with whom he disagrees, while denying people of other ideologies
the freedom to express them. It so happened that after publishing his
"interim report" about his "collective memory" survey, the good Professor
Daniel Bar-Tal had the audacity to send a letter to his colleagues, in which
he warned them of a witchunt against them. He was referring to "the growing
monitoring activities of NGOs that follow what they call "anti-Israeli"
publications and other academic events by the Israelis." He also alerted
them to "the participation in our social sciences' network of individuals
who use unaccepted language to delegitimize academia staff and activities
that they oppose politically." Finally, he demanded that university
officials take disciplinary sanctions against faculty members who cooperate
with "monitoring groups" that expose political bias among Israeli academic

Bar-Tal demanded censorship, so "*that these two examples should not be
tolerated in our society as they signal McCarthyism and other ugly trends
that should not appear in democratic societies."*

Bar-Tal has no interest in honest debate. He proposed the following
proposals for censorship and suppression of points of view with which he

I quote:

*1. The social science network should not publish messages that use
derogative language with the purpose to delegitimize individuals and groups
that act within the framework of the law and academic norms.*

*2. We should condemn the use of such language as well as monitoring
activities of the academia in Israel or elsewhere.*

*3. We should bring to light acts that aim at monitoring and limiting free
and opened academic activities in the Israeli and the international mass

*4. We should demand that formal academic bodies such as Senates of the
Universities, VERA (forum of university presidents) and the Academy of
Science condemn these types of activities.*

*If we will not act to stop these and other similar activities, but play the
role of passive bystanders, they may hurt eventually each of us, destroy the
Israeli Academia, and hurt the society."** End of quote.*

So Daniel Bar-Tal demands freedom of expression for himself while demanding
that it be denied to others. He does not like his own biases and
pseudo-research to be monitored or exposed or criticized. He thinks that
freedom of speech should be limited to critics of Zionism and Israel, but
not allowed for critics of those critics.

In fact, he behaves exactly as a juvenile who fails to win some argument and
then insists that his opponent be punished. Otherwise, why does he seek the
intervention of the academic institutions and call on them to discipline
critics of critics? And what does he mean by stating that these NGO's
"destroy Israeli academia?" Doesn't amateurish pseudo-research destroy
Israeli academia?

And who should be considered more guilty of trying to destroy Israeli
academia than those who call for an international academic boycott against
the country's universities? But those are the sorts of measures that do not
trouble Professor Bar-Tal.



1. That study is funded by a grant awarded by the IRPA (International Peace
Research Association) Foundation to Nets-Zehngut, who came up with the idea
to research this topic. It was conducted among a representative sample of
500 Israeli Jews through Dialog, an Israeli center for public opinion
research. The questions in the survey examined the collective memory
regarding 25 major issues associated with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,
ranging from the late 19th century to the beginning of the 21at centaury.
Press Release issued by Teachers College in New York on 6 April 2009.
2. For more information, visit the college's Web site at
3. The damaging report found its way into the digital dictionary Wikipedia
under "Israeli Textbook Controversy."
4. Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. September 1999. Pages 19-20.
5. Daniel Bar-Tal and Yona Teichman. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
6. (Ha'aretz, 1.1.2007)
7., (January 31, 2009).
8. CounterPunch, 22 April, 2002.

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