Tessler: Is One Sentence Enough to Reject an Entire 900-Page Book?
What chance does truth have when you find something like this in a book that is likely used as a university text?
University of Michigan Professor Mark Tessler has an impressive resume (see here). He has studied and conducted research in Arab countries and in Israel. I thoroughly enjoyed and found the first chapter of his book informative and well written. Tessler managed to put into these 68 pages a remarkable concise yet comprehensive discussion under the chapter title: “Jewish History and the Emergence of Modern Political Zionism”. He represented Jewish peoplehood well.
Therefore, it was with great anticipation that I turned to his second chapter: “Arab History and the Origins of Nationalism in the Arab World”. Tessler begins the chapter under the subtitle: “Palestinians, Arabs and Arabism”. I cannot describe my surprise and dismay to read his first sentence:
The Palestinians are descendants of two ancient peoples, the Cananites and the Philistines.
Just in case you do not believe that a distinguished and honoured scholar could write such a statement, let me show you a screenshot I took of that page:
I looked to see when the book was written — it was published in 1994. I knew there was a second edition, put out in 2009 so I wrote to Tessler to see if he had changed that statement in his later book. He never answered me. I was able to find the statement, still alive and well, in his 2009 edition by looking for the book on Google Books. There is no excuse for this. The second edition is supposed to have been updated and expanded, according to the blurb on his bio page at the university.
I find it ironic that Tessler writes in his introduction to the book:
. . . this study urges readers to pay attention to sources of information. . .
I wonder what source he had for that tidbit of a lie quoted above. He goes on later:
My goal is not to foster specific concluions about central issues in the conflict but to provide a basis for undertanding and evaluating the actions of both Israelis and Palestinians.
And how is one to understand the situation when Tessler suggests that the Palestinians are derived from the Canaanites and the Philistines, essentially erasing in one sentence any validity to the Jewish indigeneity on the Land of Israel? He claims to be attempting to provide objective information about the two “narratives” in the hope that there will be a peaceful resolution to the conflict. And he writes that:
. . . an accurate reading of history shows . . . that there is nothing about the essence of Zionism or of Palestinian nationalism that make it impossible even to conceive of a solution to the conflict.
In his introduction to the book, Tessler seems to be bending over backward to be “objective” and unbiased. But his bias is clear: there are two equally valid narratives. In fact, his monumental misrepresentation in that first sentence of his second chapter shows that he is biased toward proving that the Jews have no greater claim over the land than the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians. My own bias is clear here, of course, but how can one wipe out hundreds if not thousands of years of history by pretending that the Palestinian Arabs are derived from the Canaanites and Philistines and not the conquering Arabs that came up from the Hijaz in about 650 CE and wrested from the hands of the indigenous peoples most of the Middle East and North Africa and even southern Europe for a period of time.
Besides, how can I believe anything he writes in the remaining 800+ pages after that opening to the second chapter?
In case you are interested: