The University of Tel Aviv is hosting Avi Shlaim, the Iraqi-Israeli-British new historian for a lecture on King Hussein and Israel. Will he tell them what he wrote on page 8 of his new book?
It is ironic that Avi Shlaim confessed during a public debate in London that he ''never questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist movement or of the state of Israel''. Zionism, was above all, he said, ''the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, but it also upheld universal values like freedom, equality, socialism and peace''.
However, in that debate, three years ago, Shlaim stated that the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank made Zionism a ''catastrophic failure'' and therefore it could be regarded as the real enemy of the Jews. He also saw a link between Israel's conduct in the territories to the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism around the world.
But to what extent the Oxford Professor is indeed committed to the existence of the Jewish state where he grew up after emigrating from Iraq at the age of five?
At the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African studies he will be happy to talk about his new book "The Lion of Jordan". It is, however, hoped that he would also be challenged to explain what he wrote in the first chapter of his book. The quote speaks for itself:
"My own view is that the Balfour declaration was one of the worst mistakes in British foreign policy in the first half of the twentieth century. It involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinian Arabs and sowed the seeds of a never-ending conflict in the Middle East".
If we assume that the declaration paved the way for the realization of the Zionist dream to establish a Jewish sovereign state in the region, the conclusion is inevitable. Shlaim, like many other "new historians", maintain that not only the declaration was a political blunder, but also a moral failure that deprived another nation of its rights.
One could be led to believe that after Israel was founded, the international community had to rally around her. But Shlaim never stopped accusing the state of war mongering since the first day of its existence, long before Six Day War. In his research works, as well as in public talks, he did not miss an opportunity to hold Israel responsible for the deadlock in the region. Kink Farouk of Egypt, King Abdullah of Jordan, President Husni Zaim of Syria, even President Nasser, all desired peace, but the Israelis rebuffed them, one after the other. For reasons known to him, he also chose to ignore Arab atrocities against the Israelis before 1967 and against the Yishuv before 1948, during which, according to him, the IDF enjoyed military superiority.
In his previous publications Shlaim based his research on the much disputed argument that Jewish leaders were, with King Abdullah of Jordan and the British, part of a sinister plan to deprive the Palestinians of their land.
The last war in Lebanon was no exception. In an article published by the Guardian, Shlaim described it as an act ''undertaken on false prospectus". He also wrote that Tony Blair's opposition to an immediate ceasefire in that war ''precipitated his downfall''.
But, according to his extreme leftist outlook, the key factor in the perpetuation of the conflict is America's support for Israel "in its savage colonial war against the Palestinian people". Blair, he argued, was a culprit long before Lebanon, since he did not object Washington's position that Israel should keep blocks of settlements around Jerusalem in the event of peace. "The nefarious Sharon-Bush pact", he added "was the most egregious British betrayal of the Palestinians since the Balfour Declaration of 1917".
Shlaim is said to have showed an interest in the Middle East after he served as an outside examiner on the doctoral thesis of the notorious academic Ilan Pappe who recently joined a British university. No wonder that the two participated last year in the "Israeli Apartheid Week" at the University of Oxford. In Tel-Aviv, at long last, he will have to come clean.