Finding truth in the Mideast
Geoff Metcalf interviews author, journalist, historian Joan Peters

Editor's note: Joan Peters' monumental book, "From Time Immemorial," changes the terms of the debate about the conflicting claims of the Arabs and the Jews in the Middle East. After many years of research, Peters has documented the complex history of the region and deftly contradicts common perceptions about the role and strategy of each side of the struggle. WorldNetDaily staff writer and talk show host Geoff Metcalf recently interviewed Peters about her book and the current Mideast conflict.

"From Time Immemorial".

By Geoff Metcalf

Question: You spent about seven years researching your book, "From Time Immemorial," right?

Answer: Really, it was a lot more than that, but there were seven years in the field.

Q: What precipitated your interest in the history of the Middle East?

A: I was sent there by CBS for the 1973 Yom Kippur War to do a series of documentaries. I stayed for the war and its aftermath -- it became a very long process. Then, Doubleday offered me a contract to do a book and I became an instant expert. So, I started doing the book and eventually realized that I and everybody else who had been studying it had been studying it from the wrong end, and it was turned on its head. So, I had to give back the contract.

Q: You mean they didn't like the conclusions you were coming to after doing the research?

A: It wasn't that they didn't like them. To be fair, they were very interested. But it was an open-ended time estimate and I couldn't give them any deadlines. They needed a book on the Middle East so, with all fairness, I gave back the advance and said, "Maybe I'll come back to you when I've finished, if I ever finish."

Q: What was it you found? Everybody is confused about the Mideast.

A: Yes, they are.

Q: All people are getting is what they are being fed through the mainstream, and so much of that is mitigated by partisan politics and other concerns. What did you find that was surprising and different from the conventional wisdom?

A: I'm going to back up a minute. People are learning from the media -- that's true. But today's media has some more taxing problems. I don't know if you get a rather unfamiliar -- not very popular -- publication called Commentary Magazine.

Q: Sure. If it is unpopular and not mainstream, I read it.

A: In the January issue -- I don't remember the name of the Italian journalist who was translated -- but it told a very chilling story about what's available in the Middle East for publication and why. There are open threats by the Palestinian Authority, for example.

Q: I remember that article. I butchered the writer's name for over 10 minutes.

A: The problem of the Middle East media is they have to write things the "right way" or else they are dead meat.

Q: It has to be politically correct to their perspective?

A: It's more than politically correct. It means they don't report an Israeli who has been murdered. They don't report the reason for an Arab slaughter of Israelis. They report it as though it was an Israeli provocation. There was one exception to that. I'm sure you and your audience must remember the ... I can't even call it a mutilation. They called it a "lynching," but it was much worst than that.

Q: Yeah, we remember that. They hacked up those soldiers.

A: The reporter who had the audacity to photograph that and then publish it in Italy and then worldwide had to get down on his knees and beg forgiveness from the Palestinian Authority to prevent from being killed. There is no freedom to publish there anymore than there is in places like Egypt, where the news starts at the top of the pyramid -- I was told that by an Egyptian editorial writer once, a television writer.

Q: Wait a minute. You've got two adversarial factions there. Both sides are propagandizing -- there is no argument about that. So why would one side be more successful at inhibiting reportage?

A: You're talking about Israel and the Palestinians?

Q: Yes.

A: There is nothing equitable about that. There is not even an analogous situation. Israel has a free press. Everything bad you can write about Israel is welcome in Israel. In fact, the Israeli press has been arguably the source of most of the anti-Israeli material in the world. They have many more papers that are what we would call anti-Israel than they have pro-Israel.

Q: The guy who published the piece about the slaughter of those Israeli soldiers -- where was he from?

A: Italy.

Q: So whose ring did he have to kiss?

A: He was reporting to an Italian newspaper, an Italian media company. And he thought his job was to report the truth.

Q: He didn't get the memo?

A: No. That's about it.

Q: How come the Arab refugees are perceived so differently? There are a lot of other people who were displaced after World War II in far greater numbers than the Arabs. Who drew up the rules on this as far as perception versus reality?

A: There are a lot of disturbing questions -- and that is a very disturbing one. It has become an urgent matter to talk about the refugees but people in the Middle East don't want to talk about refugees. They want to talk about Palestinians.

The refugee situation was equal in 1948. There was more or less an exchange of populations. There were an unknown countless number of hundreds of thousands of Arab-born Jews who fled or were expelled from Arab countries with the advent of Israel. And they left their properties or their properties were confiscated in those Arab countries. The Palestinians who fled or were ordered to run from Israel -- many of them recently arrived nomads who had come for a job -- those people could have taken over the positions that were left by the Jews in those Arab countries. It could have been solved and it could have been one of the more humane solutions to the refugee problem anywhere in the world.

There were many international boards of inquiry. There were many recommendations by American and foreign presidents and prime ministers to solve the Arab refugee problem. As the Arabs said in the Arab League at that time, "We want to keep this as an open sore and use these people as a pawn against Israel."

Q: They actually had the brass to say that?

A: Oh, they say it. In my book, it is quoted many times.

Q: In the wake of your research, what do you see as the most crucial, compelling challenge in the Mideast right now?

A: The most crucial, compelling problem in the Mideast is standing history on its feet from its place turned on its head, and trying to get justice turned back on its feet. The history of the region has been so distorted by the flames of a politically motivated force. There is no way to right this unless people just stop and say, "Whoa!" It's going to have to be an almost revolutionary movement in historical terms. People are going to have to go back to the books and find out about some of the disturbing questions that could create another holocaust.

Q: A long time ago I read a book by, I think, some former colleagues of yours, called "O Jerusalem."

A: Yes, a good book.

Q: I thought it was a pretty fair and balanced analysis of the history. How rabid is revisionist history in the Mideast?

A: I can tell you it isn't even revisionist history anymore. It's almost mainstream. It's become so prevalent and it is a complete hoax. It is bogus. The situation that we are hearing about is not relevant to the truth of the situation about the conflict of Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Q: What is the reality?

A: The reality is that Israel is a very small place, a Jewish place, and without a huge struggle, the Jews would never have had it. But they had it before the Second World War. It was a Jewish national home mandated internationally by the League of Nations as long ago as 1917 at the time of the Balfour Declaration. And then it was adopted by the international League of Nations Mandate in the '20s.

Q: In 1947, the British sat down with a crayon and carved up the Mideast. From that point forward, what is the complaint that the Arabs have?

A: They have no complaint. What they want is Jews out. First, they want the Saturday people out and then they want the Sunday people out. I sat with some very soft-spoken, very chilling people in Gaza -- Islamic Jihad leaders who told me very carefully and very quietly and very succinctly that no one and no border exists for the Arabs, the Islamic Arabs, in the area between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean except the Islamic borders, and that any others are artificial and the governments must be wiped out.

Q: How do they deal with the cruel reality that every time a bunch of them get together with rocks and try to choose victims that are trained, armed and motivated, they come up on the short end of the stick?

A: First of all, they are not stones. They are not rocks. I have some examples of these lethal weapons that people think are tiny little gravel pieces that are slingshot material. They are lethal weapons. Imagine a group of people with lethal weapons of any kind going into a crowd of American police who are, for any reason at all, in a cluster, preventing some kind of rioting. Imagine what would happen to them if they suddenly threw these lethal weapons or shot at our police. How quickly would they be rounded up? And how quickly would they be put out of action?

Q: First, they would be immediately arrested -- those that could still walk, because the legal justification of the application of deadly force is if you are in danger of your life -- and you can be in danger of your life if attacked by a rock or an RPG. You can take out that attacker. I have a dear friend who is a police officer who shot and killed an assailant who assaulted him and his partner with an iron crowbar. It was a righteous shooting -- no harm, no foul. So why doesn't it happen there?

A: The Israelis have been in a position of extreme restraint since day one, because the British always considered the Jews provocateurs just because they were there. They treated the Arabs as natives in the Jewish national home, and, they allowed Arabs to come in illegally and take places that were being frantically cleared by Jews for other Jews to come from Hitler's Germany. It's a very concise and very traceable history. If you trace it, it loses the complicated factor and it becomes quite clear.

Q: Why are you the Lone Ranger here?

A: As a matter of fact, [WorldNetDaily Editor] Joe Farah is very keen on my research and the research, of course, is not just mine. It belongs to the world. There is a new documentary being prepared on the book, called "The Myth." It looks like people are finally waking up to the fact that there is nothing Israel can do except die out for the Arab Muslims to be satisfied. And since that will not satisfy the world either, they are going back to reality. I am very encouraged by that. And, I must say I thought I was the Lone Ranger.

Q: One of the things that has been so frustrating throughout this latest travail of attempting to grasp the fiction of peace in the Mideast is that every time Yasser Arafat would do something bad, the Clinton administration was rewarding him. Then, they scratch themselves on the head and ask, "Why is he doing this bad stuff?" Because there are no consequences to the bad stuff.

A: You are right. We have an election in Israel on Feb. 6.

Q: Barak is toast. The obvious question is when Ariel Sharon gets in there -- he is the hawk of all hawks.

A: That is the conventional wisdom -- and that is the same kind of public relations by which Arafat is a peacenik. If you believe one, you believe the other. In fact, Ariel Sharon is probably the only man who can keep that country from fragmenting.

He is the only man the Arabs both trust and fear -- and they respect him because they know he will be fair and will operate from a position of truth, not from their lies and not from the mythology that has been used by the Labor Party in Israel. With the best of intentions, the Labor Party has been misleading the world.