A response to Professor Al-Attabi

In his April 27 Collegian piece “Palestinians are refugees in their own land,” Assistant Professor of Arabic Qussay Al-Attabi recounts once more the woes of the Palestinians under occupation.  The “wall” (mostly a fence), the Jewish settlements, separation from Jerusalem: I will, for argument’s sake, accept all of it at face value. But then, I ask, why does Professor Al-Attabi not address his complaints to the one authority that could magically cure all these ills overnight? I mean of course the Palestinian Authority. Had the Palestinian Authority, under Yasser Arafat, accepted the peace proposals at Camp David and Taba, there would have been a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem and not a Jew to be seen in it the day the Israel Defense Force (IDF) moved out. Just as nearly all Jews evacuated Gaza with the exit of the IDF, so too would Jews have left the West Bank. No wall, no Jews: Everything would have been copacetic. The Palestinians refused and Yasser Arafat explained why in a speech to the UN in 1974. He explained, “They have portrayed the Middle East question as little more than a border dispute between the Arab States and the Zionist entity.” That entity is part of “an old world order [which] is crumbling before our eyes, as imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and racism, the chief form of which is zionism, ineluctably perish.”  


The peace offer was repeated in 2008 by the Olmert government. This time, Mr. Abbas was running the Palestinian Authority and refused even to make a counter-offer. The offers remain on the table. Israeli public opinion would happily accept a real peace with Palestine, given that it accepted Israel’s existence. But the Palestinians won’t. Abbas has said that he will never accept a “Jewish state, call it what you will.” The Palestinian designation of the day Israel was founded as the Naqba, the catastrophe, underlines their refusal to accept Israel’s existence. The Palestinian Authority does not glorify dead murderers and pay pensions to their families just for fun.


It is hard to imagine that Professor Al-Attabi does not know full well that the occupation of the West Bank is a red herring. From the beginning of the Mandate, the real and only issue has been the refusal of many Arabs — though not all Arabs, since Egypt and Jordan eventually made a “cold peace” with Israel — to accept the legitimacy and permanence of a Jewish homeland in the Middle East. As Yasser Arafat said in 2001 of President Clinton, “If he wants me to sign this deal, he wants to issue an open invitation to my funeral, because I will die at the hand of my own people.” The annual Kenyon wall and all the laments about the occupation are tactics designed to delegitimize the Jewish state so it can eventually be destroyed. If Professor Al-Attabi really wants the occupation to end, he knows who to talk to — and it’s not the Collegian. And those who are drawn in by phony claims of “intersectionality” should know that and be aware of the implications of what they are doing.

Fred Baumann is a professor of political science. You can contact him at

Fred Baumann

Fred Baumann has been teaching political science at Kenyon since 1980.

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  1. Fred Baumann Reply

    Sorry. Not “nearly all” Jews left Gaza; all did.

  2. someonewhoknowsmoreabouttheissuethanyou Reply

    After Israel left Gaza, they bombed it over and over again. They created the largest open-air prison in the world. During the last war on Gaza, and as described by IDF soldiers who affiliate themselves with Break the Silence, soldiers were asked to kill anyone they see. More than 1600 civilians were killed. Please go ahead and explain to a child in Gaza why his parents or friends aren’t there anymore. List all the agreements the PA signed or didn’t sign to and ask yourself if the case still stands. Whether the PA signs or doesn’t sign to anything is absolutely irrelevant since they clearly have the power to do nothing.

    You can always try fit your arguments in any political framework, but you can never make any moral or humane case for the killing of civilians. You have never spoken out against Israel’s bombing of civilians and countless human rights violations. You fail to recognize the internationally agreed upon recognition of the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli government. Your inability to do so speaks to the value you put to the lives of Palestinians and to human rights in general.

  3. Fred Baumann Reply

    Dear someone-who-claims-to-know-more-about-this-issue-than-I-do:
    The same point applies. When Israel left Gaza it left in the hope of peace. For instance, the Israelis left behind a lot of greenhouses with a flourishing industry for the Gazans to use. Nice gesture, eh?. Israel also has kept open a crossing point so that Gazan farmers could get their produce to Saudi Arabia and Jordan without having to ship it around the tip of Arabia. Israel gets nothing out of this except having to deal with terrorists hiding in trucks. (Have you seen the bullet holes left by terrorists in the concrete at the Erez crossing? I have.) First day out, as you of course surely know, the Gazans smashed those greenhouses as “Zionist” greenhouses. In a similar vein they elected a Hamas government whose charter still calls for the death of all Jews, and then began shooting rockets into Israel. Eventually they dug tunnels to send their killers in on murder missions. They constantly boasted about how they would destroy Israel and they indoctrinated little children about how great it is to become a martyr in battle or in terrorism. Israel didn’t respond militarily for 8 years. Since you know so much you know perfectly well that if the Palestinians had only cut it out and just lived quietly next to Israel that none of this would have happened. No blockade, no war. And do you really think that you yourself would sit patiently under rocket fire for 8 years without expecting your country to hit back and stop it? But you expect Jews to do that? Apparently you do. And you seem very angry that they don’t. So your first sentence amounts to what looks very much like an attempt to deceive. Israel did not “bomb Gaza again and again after they left.” It was Hamas that rocketed Israel again and again until finally Israel hit back.
    This is the Arab position in a nutshell–carry on perpetual warfare and then complain bitterly at the nasty fellow who had the gall to defend himself in return. There’s an old French proverb to that effect: “that animal is very wicked; when you attack it, it defends itself.” By your own pseudonym you seem to admit you know all this. So do you really think this kind of deception is legitimate?
    Fred Baumann

  4. dfg Reply

    Thank you Professor Baumann. Well said.

  5. Wistful Alum Reply

    I don’t agree with you, Professor Baumann, but I’m glad Kenyon is still a place where there can be legitimate, civil disagreement on political issues.

  6. Concerned Student Reply

    Before writing another article, you should read some modern scholarship on the topic. There are only a handful of legitimate historians in the world who still profess the same views that you do. There are many Israeli historians who firmly believe in the Jewish state, while acknowledging its history of violence against Palestinians (because it cannot be denied by a rational person). As a student I could never write a paper saying “the Palestinians just won’t accept this” or “the Israelis just won’t accept this,” as if that statement could possibly mean anything significant. Arafat and Abbas do not represent the desires of all Palestinians, nor does Netanyahu represent the desires of all Israelis. If you are going to publish opinions you should hold yourself to a higher standard of clarity and scholarship, otherwise you end up looking foolish.

  7. Fred Baumann Reply

    Dear Concerned Student:
    I find that you appeal to unnamed authorities, and that you in no way controvert any factual claim I make. To make up for this you accuse me of denying the Jewish state’s “history of violence against the Palestinians,” again without any specifics.
    You also accuse me of excessive generality is saying that the “Palestinians won’t accept this” (meaning, I have to guess, won’t accept peace with Israel.) None of this is relevant to what I have written. I did not deny that Israel uses violence on occasion to defend itself. I merely explained that it is dishonest to omit the long history of Hamas and PA violence to which Israel did not respond until finally it felt it had to. I did not say that the Palestinians would never accept a Jewish state, but I am on very firm ground in saying that they have not and continue to say they will not. By Palestinians of course I mean their governments.,the PA on the West Bank, and Hamas in Gaza. But all polls indicate that Hamas would win any honest election in the West Bank over the PA, which should tell you that I would be on even stronger ground were I referring to the Palestinian people. The point remains, and you are wise not to try to deny it: Israel has offered peace on generous terms, terms which necessarily involve the end of the occupation, at least twice in recent years and has been turned down flat. Palestinian complaints about the consequences of their own actions are neither rational nor just. If you want more detail I would be glad to provide you with it, including such facts as that the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have been under the government of the PA since Oslo II in 1995.
    Concerned Student, you are using a technique that is not worthy of you, namely sneering at the messenger while (admittedly prudently) failing to engage with the message. It is, as these things go, not a bad technique–there will be those who desperately want to be thought cool who will buy it. (Gosh, Baumann’s scholarship is out of date! Ooh!) But, to use your language, if you want to be taken seriously by anyone who knows the difference between rational arguments and ad hominem attacks, “you should hold yourself to a higher standard of clarity and scholarship. “

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