Joan Peters, author of the 1980s revelatory study, “From Time Immemorial,” an essential piece of work for any Zionist or Zionist supporter, died recently at the age of 78.

If you are pro Israel and you have not read her book, go now and buy it. You will be vindicated for every defense you have ever rightly put up for the Jewish people and their homeland. A landmark treatise, Peters, displays incredible research, thoroughly investigated, and absolutely needed at the time it was published.

Her book was so controversial precisely because anti-Zionists knew she exposed something they had hoped would never be revealed, that the vast majority of Palestinians today, who claim Israel as their homeland have no legal, historical or moral right to it. Moreover, their ancestors came after the Zionist movement started.

The book argues, it was the Jews who created an economy which needed manual labor, and the Arabs supplied it by coming from all over the middle East. Without Zionist settlement that tiny strip of land on the western coast of Asia, today would probably still be desert and swamp land unfit for human beings to live in the modern world.

Conclusion, the Jews were good for Palestine, good for the surrounding Arab Levantine world, and an asset to modernity.

Critics have argued she used secondary sources, so how can any serious historian consider her work credible? While that is correct for some assertions there is also ample primary documentation that her critics always fail to mention. The text is 400 pages long, and is then followed by a 200 page set of appendices, end notes and citations. She has photographs of letters, maps, tables, graphs as well as primary, and secondary citations complete with page numbers and quotes.

Published in 1984, “From Time Immemorial” came right in the middle of the declassification of Israel official documentation on the 1948 war.  As a young Zionist planning my Aliya, during which  I was in the midst of defending Israel from outright scandalous accusations, written by the “new historians” of Israel, her book was like a life raft in an open sea of lies and distortions. Marxists teaching in universities in Israel, Europe and the United States, publishing an interpretation of events that accused Israel of war crimes, stealing land, expelling Arabs and the war was only a consequence of those events, being played down so as not to explain Israel’s justifiable motives for every move they made during the 18 months of that war.

They were having a field day revising Israel’s standard narrative about its wartime conduct. However, the release of Peters’ book was a breadth of fresh air. I had someone speaking for me. Giving me information that went far beyond anything I had read defending Israel before that time, with documents, and proof that it was all valid. It quite literally got me through the 1980s in defending Zionism.

For example:

In regard to the refugee problem and the Arab states failure to absorb Arab refugees like the Jews absorbed theirs had been a legitimate argument to end the crisis in the 1950s. She says on page 21 (paperback edition, 1985, JKAP pub.) According to Palestinian writer Fawaz Turki, Syria “could have absorbed its own refugees, and probably those in Lebanon and Jordan.”

Peters notes an economic development report by Alexander Gibbs Co., an engineering construction firm looking for international investment after World War II.  In 1949, Alexander Gibbs’ surveys in the Levant showed “Syria required more than twice as many inhabitants as its then-current population of a little more than two million (after World War II).”

But, Syria chose not to do that. They kept the Palestinians living in squalor, weakened their own possibilities of advancing their own country forward, and stoked up the tensions with the State of Israel so that a state of war still exists between the two countries until this very day.

Another bone of contention was the population difference between numbers of Arabs and Jews in Palestine. Anti-Zionists tout that by the time of the Balfour Declaration, Arabs outnumbered Jews in Palestine anywhere from five to eight times depending on which anti-Zionist you are talking to. But, you have to remember when the Balfour Declaration was signed in 1917 Palestine not only consisted of Israel today west of the Jordan River but also Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Peters’ argued that when you only look at the primary Jewish area of settlement in Western Palestine the population figures were very different.

She writes on page 251:

According to the 1893 Ottoman census “…The entire non Jewish population, Muslim , Christians and ‘others’ of that Jewish settled area (western Palestine) is a little more than 92,000…54,000 Muslims and 38,000 Christians,” and then there were “60,000 Jews” making them the majority in that specific area.

“The data indicate that the proportion of Arabs to Jews in Western Palestine was far smaller than the conventional wisdom has assumed. At that time the Jews there numbered nearly 60,000, despite Turkish restrictions against Jewish immigration, which by 1893 the Turkish government had already been enforcing for years.”

Even with the Ottoman census figures, on page 259, she doubles down on the idea anticipating an anti-Zionist backlash by stating that the figures posted on p. 251 “matched pretty closely with the 1895 survey conducted by Vital Cuinet,” a French geographer.

The fact that she has researched sources like Fawaz Turki, Alexander Gibbs Co. and Vital Cuinet to successfully argue her thesis shows the level of historical tenacity  to seek out little known facts that tell the wider story and document it. Like a blues musician always looking for the note that isn’t there, the historical researcher is in a continual search for missing pieces of any history. Ms. Peters’ has done this in “From Time Immemorial,”

Research this thorough was what really set the anti-Zionist crowd on their heels. They cried foul, tried to discredit her work and ridiculed Ms. Peters as a third rate historian. All to no avail of course,

True, her work was not scholarly, she used her writing in many cases to polemically condemn the Arab world, and European Christianity for its mistreatment of Jews while it was struggling to find its own little patch of earth.

And, she builds her case right from the beginning.

In the chapter entitled “The Arab Jew” Peters goes through with impeccable  detail the treatment of Jews in Arab lands before the 1948 war. Covering individual crimes committed against Jews by governments, or the absence of governments to protect them. There are individual subchapters for Aden, Yemen, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, and Libya, all countries that contained substantial Jewish communities.

While many of these attacks were committed during the Zionist movement, an argument promoted by anti-Zionism to justify Arab crimes as a reaction to Zionist successes in pre state Palestine, many more happened long before Zionism came on the scene. A particular fondness of Anti-Zionists is to say, that before Zionism “We all lived in peace, Muslims, Christian and Jews.” Not so according to the mountain of evidence put forth by Peters in her book.

I know of no other source that so completely covers this portion of Jewish history, so thoroughly with names, dates and facts and with the documentation to back it up. For the work done on this subject alone “From Time Immemorial” is worth having in your library.

She talks about Muslim extremism, its origins and its philosophy against anyone who doesn’t adhere to their particular brand of Islam. Considering the book was researched before the Iranian revolution, the creation of Hezbollah, Hamas, al Queda, the Taliban, the events of  9-11, and everything leading up to today, her work carries  prophetic warnings that echo out from the pages with a reverberating past.  The noticeable current problems of Western rejection of some of these  ideas which are only now showing themselves in exactly the kind of escalating brutality, her warning, like a clarion call in the night.

Peters’ research remains one of the land mark works of one of the landmark conflicts of the 20th century. A work that explains the Israeli Palestine issue in a way that fills the holes that observers are always puzzled by. Holes that are now filled thanks to the hard work and excellence of Joan Peters, and “From Time Immemorial.”

No serious historian on the Israeli Palestinian conflict should be without a copy of this book in their library.  It’s a reference that you will turn to over and over again. I’ve worn out two copies myself in the almost thirty years. I am only sorry I was never able to actually thank Ms. Peters in person for her diligence on this topic.

For more stuff by Larry go to www.hartnation.com

Joan Peters 1938-2015 www.levitt.tv

Joan Peters 1938-2015 www.levitt.tv

Jewish community examiner

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