31 March 2011

Oh dear

'The Liar As Hero' by historian Benny Morris in TNR (17 Mar 2011) begins by stating -
At best, Ilan Pappe must be one of the world's sloppiest historians; at worst, one of the most dishonest. In truth, he probably merits a place somewhere between the two.
Morris' demolition of Pappe proceeds with comments such as -
Those who falsify history routinely take the path of omission. They ignore crucial facts and important pieces of evidence while cherry-picking from the documentation to prove a case.

Pappe is more brazen. He, too, often omits and ignores significant evidence, and he, too, alleges that a source tells us the opposite of what it in fact says, but he will also simply and straightforwardly falsify evidence
The disproportion also reflects Pappe's worth as a historian. Let me explain. To cover the history of Palestine—a geographically small backwater in the giant Ottoman domain—and the activities of its aristocracy and their interaction with the authorities in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, one would have to spend many months in the Ottoman archives in Istanbul. There one would need to locate and pore over reports and correspondence from and about the relevant vilayets (provinces), Syria/Damascus and Beirut, and the relevant sanjaks and mutasarafliks (districts), Jerusalem, Nablus, and Acre, in addition to the central government’s deliberations and decision-making about Jerusalem and its environs. Pappe, who lacks Turkish, has not consulted any Ottoman archives. There is not a single reference to any Ottoman archive, or any Turkish source, in his endnotes.
Pappe repeatedly refers to "Harry Lock" of the British Mandate government secretariat in the 1920s —b ut the chief secretary's name was Harry Luke. Pappe obviously encountered the name in Hebrew or Arabic and transliterated it, with no prior knowledge of Luke against which to check it: if he had consulted British documents, he would have known the correct spelling. Pappe refers to "the Hope Simpson Commission" — there was no such commission, only an investigation by an official named John HopeSimpson. He refers to "twenty-two Muslim ... states" in the world in 1931, but by my count there were only about half a dozen. He refers to "the Jewish Intelligence Service" — presumably the Haganah Intelligence Service — and then adds, "whose archive has been opened to Israeli historians but not to Palestinians". To the best of my knowledge, this is an outright lie. All public archives in Israel, including the Haganah Archive in Tel Aviv, which contains the papers of its intelligence service, are open to all researchers.
It is unclear what Pappe is quoting from. I did not find this sentence in the commission’s report. Pappe's bibliography refers, under "Primary Sources", simply to "The Shaw Commission". The report? The deliberations? Memoranda by or about? Who can tell? The footnote attached to the quote, presumably to give its source, says, simply, "Ibid". The one before it says, "Ibid., p. 103." The one before that says, "The Shaw Commission, session 46, p. 92." But the quoted passage does not appear on page 103 of the report. In the text of Palestinian Dynasty, Pappe states that "Shaw wrote [this] after leaving the country [Palestine]". But if it is not in the report, where did Shaw "write" it?
and so on.