After only a
week on the bookstore shelves, it seems that Antony Loewenstein’s My Israel
Question
is undergoing a second print run. This might indicate that the book
is going like hotcakes. But according to Nielsen’s BookScan, which keeps tabs on
book sales nationwide, only 318 copies were sold during that period.

These paltry sales figures would seem to belie any contention that the
decision for a second run of My Israel Question was based on purely
commercial calculations. But when contacted, Melbourne University Publishing
(MUP) denied this, citing purely profit-driven considerations stemming from
figures of around 400 copies sold. According to MUP, this constitutes an
“overwhelming response” to the book.

But could it be that the additional
print run constitutes simply a hasty attempt to fix a few more of the egregious
misstatements in the book? MUP contends otherwise, but it has already hastened
to distribute an errata sheet that addresses a seriously flawed map in the
book’s preface. And there’s no shortage of factual mistakes elsewhere in
Loewenstein’s book.

Here are some glaring examples
of the amateur scholarship that litters My Israel Question. They are bloopers so basic that they
impeach Loewenstein’s claim to competence as an informed Middle East
commentator:

1) PLO Support for Saddam Hussein:
On page 90,
Loewenstein states: “The PLO did not endorse Saddam’s aggression (against
Kuwait in 1990).”

But a simple Lexis-Nexis search reveals that
Yasser Arafat’s support for Saddam Hussein during this period was both public
and effusive. On 30 September 1990 – two months after the conquest of Kuwait,
the New York Times wrote the following: “Driven by pro-Iraqi
sentiments in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and among the Palestinian
majority in Jordan, Mr Arafat has deepened his already intimate ties with
President Saddam Hussein of Iraq, condemning the United States military build-up
in the region and promoting a settlement that would reward Iraq for its invasion
with territorial and economic concessions by Kuwait.”

And at the
height of the war – on 12 February 1991 – the Courier-Mail ran a
Reuters story that featured the following statement by Arafat: “These
are glorious days for our Arab nation, because we are witnessing an epic of
legendary steadfastness by the Iraqi people and the valiant army under the
command of my brother, the knight Saddam.

2) Palestinian Suicide Bombing:
On page 91
of My Israel Question, Loewenstein claims that the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign
commenced only after the Oslo Accords were signed. This contention underpins his
argument that suicide terrorism was a reflection of Palestinian frustration with
Israeli intransigence: “Ominously, Palestinian suicide bombing commenced in
1994, the year after Arafat and Rabin’s famous appearance on the lawns of the
White House.”

But in fact, the Palestinian suicide bombing campaign
began in April 1993, five months before the Oslo accords were signed. And a
second pre-Oslo Accord bombing took place on 12 September 1993, the day before
the White House ceremony. This attack was generally interpreted by Mid-East
analysts as a signal of the Hamas intention to continue its war against Israel.

Read more on the website.

Peter Fray

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