The Spectacle Blog

Simon Schama Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story About Israel

By on 4.2.14 | 3:00AM

Last week, my mother strongly recommended that I watch Simon Schama's five-part series, The Story of the Jews, which aired on PBS. I cannot give a comprehensive review as other activities permitted me to watch only three of the five episodes including the final installment, which was devoted to the State of Israel. I shall confine my comments on Schama's documentary to the Israel episode.

To start with, I was bothered by the fact that Schama did not make a single mention of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism nor for that matter did he mention the Dreyfuss Affair in France, which sparked Herzl into action in the first place. It would be like discussing the history of the origins of British Common Law without mentioning the Magna Carta or discussing the American Revolution without mentioning The Battle of Lexington & Concord. 
 
But this wasn't nearly as irksome as Schama's utter disdain for Israeli settlers. During the episode, he interviewed a settler and could barely conceal his contempt and portrayed him as a religious fanatic and colonialist. As I have argued before and will argue again, the settlements are a red herring. No Jew has lived in Gaza in nearly ten years and yet Palestinian hatred for Jews continues unabated. Why is it that Schama finds more fault with a Jewish settler raising his children in peace than with a Palestinian who hands out candy to his children when a Jewish family is murdered?
 
With regard to the separation barrier, while Schama acknowledges it has saved lives he nevertheless condemned the Jews who built it rather than the Palestinians who necessitated its construction. Schama excoriated Jews who "scurry for safety beneath the watch towers" and called the separation barrier "not ultimately a Judaism of bravery, not ultimately a Judaism of life." 
 
I suppose I shouldn't be surprised to hear such a statement from one of the biggest apologists for President Obama. We all know what a fairweather friend Obama has been to Israel. It can thank Obama for allowing a nuclear Iran. 
 
Schama sees hope in schools where Jewish and Arab children learn together. Does Schama honestly believe this could happen in Ramallah or Gaza City?
 
If the Palestinians seek peace then they only have to say one word: Yes.
 
But they won't. They said no in 1948, no in 1967, no in 2000 & 2001, no in 2008 and no again this very day in 2014. Israel need not apologize for anything and will do quite nicely without Simon Schama's sanctimony. 
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