With Friends Like These

The elegantly titled Iron Wall is a perfect example of how a necessary book on an important topic can be rendered inadequate by the author’s all-consuming bias.  In the Preface to this immense volume, Avi Shlaim, a retired professor at Oxford and a fellow of the British Academy, describes his well-connected family as Iraqi “Arab” Jews from Baghdad who “always lived in harmony with our Muslim neighbors,” were “not mistreated,” and “certainly not pushed out.”  He fails to mention the bloody outrage known as the Farhud, perpetrated in 1941 against Baghdad Jews.  At the instigation of the notoriously pro-Nazi mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin Al-Husseini, upward of 180 (perhaps many more) Jews were brutally murdered, and as many as 900 Jewish homes were destroyed in one of the worst anti-Jewish pogroms in history.

While Shlaim accepts the legitimacy of Israel within the 1949 armistice Green line, he rejects the “Zionist colonial project beyond the 1967 borders,” laments that the Israeli armed forces, in which he served “loyally and proudly,” is now a “police force of a brutal colonial power,” and “still believe[s] that the main obstacle [to peace] is Israel, or rather the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line.”  Shlaim’s opinion betrays a sophomoric...

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