Bitter Harvest, A Modern History of Palestine, Fourth Edition, by Sami Hadawi, Olive Branch Press, 1991. ISBN 0-940793-76-8

The subtitle of Bitter Harvest should be ”A Long Anti-Zionist Screed”. The book really focuses very little on the people or leaders of Palestine. Instead it closely documents the misdeeds of the Israelis. While no sane person would argue that the Palestinians don’t have plenty of grievances with Israel, Hadawi lets his pro-Palestinian mindset hijack the work, turning a history into an indictment.

It’s not particularly factual about those Israeli misdeeds, either.

On page 9, Hawadi states, “The first signs of unrest between Arab and Jew occurred in 1920 when Zionist designs on the Holy Land became apparent.” What he really means is that the Arabs were still at rest. This ignores, for example, that Beha-a-Din, the Turkish governor of Jaffa, ordered the expulsion of all Russian Jews living in his city in 1914. Seven hundred were forced out in just the first day. In 1915, working as the “secretary for Jewish affairs” for Djemal Pasha, the same Beha-a-Din closed the Anglo-Palestine Bank, as well as the Zionist newspapers and schools. No unrest indeed.

On page 280, talking about the cease-fire between Israel and the PLO in 1981 just before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he states that “...all PLO guerilla attacks against Israel had completely ceased...” and that “The PLO had scrupulously respected the cease-fire...”. Yet the immediate catalyst for the invasion of Lebanon was the murder in London of the Israeli ambassador Shlomo Argov by a member of the Palestine National Liberation Movement. Of course, the PNLM is not the PLO, so his facts are correct in a certain way, but the meaning he conveys, of unprovoked Israeli aggression, is obviously false.

One of Hadawi's most ridiculous points is that the various Arab countries never refused to admit the Palestinian refugees, it's just that they didn't want to come, they wanted to stay in Palestine and work to get it back. This is silly, though. The one country, Jordan, that did open its borders got over 200,000 takers, almost overnight.

In fact, as far as I can tell, he omits every single fact that would possibly show the Palestinians in a less than perfect light. There is only oblique reference to the 1973 war. The hijacking that led to the raid at Entebbe is never mentioned. He describes the attack on Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics as “the Munich incident of September 5, 1972, in which eleven Israeli and four Palestinian commandoes lost their lives” - making it sound as if they were all in a bus accident or something. There is no mention at all in his book of the 400,000 or so Jewish refugees that were tossed out of the Muslim countries after the 1967 war.

Even worse, Hadawi tells us almost nothing about the Palestinian people, their character, their leaders (Arafat is only mentioned on three pages of the book and two of these are single sentences) or their aspirations (with of course the exception of their aspiration to throw the Jews out and take back Palestine). He spends a grand total of a page and a half discussing the nature of Palestine, its area, the qualities of its land, the distribution of the population, their pursuits, the way they lived before the Jews arrived and so on. Even in this limited description, he manages to add in a couple of digs at the Zionists. Hawadi simply takes a childish, Zionists-are-all-bad-and-Palestinians-are-all-good, approach to the facts that makes the book difficult, almost painful, to read.

Hadawi also uses some sources that I consider questionable or at least obscure. He quotes private conversations, obscure university professors, and even an anonymous letter to an anonymous American newspaper. In one place (page 85) he puts a quote in the text that in the footnotes he proves is impossible to verify and on shaky ground to start with.

I read this book to try to get a version of the history of Palestine from the Palestinian point of view, as I had gotten the Jewish viewpoint from A History Of Israel by Howard M. Sachar. Really, though, I learned more about Palestine and the Palestinian people from Mr Sachar’s book - he wasn't afraid to at least mention both sides of the arguments.

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