Joan Peters has died. That saddens those of us who appreciated her work, which exposed several myths in global geopolitics, particularly regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Peters’ 1984 book, From Time Immemorial, began as a sort of defense of the Palestinian view that Jews wrenched Palestine from peace-loving Arab farmers. As her research advanced, Peters discovered quite a different narrative, namely that Arabs had begun mass immigration to the region in the late 19th century, on the heels of Jewish immigration. It seems jobs started to become plentiful.
(One can even seen allusions to this from Hanan Ashrawi’s memoir, This Side of Peace. She describes her father’s origins and settlement in Palestine.)
Peters’ legacy is rich, and when the announcement of her death spread, several leaders expressed their admiration of her. The leadership and staff, led by Kenneth Bialkin and Charlotte Frank, of the America-Israel Friendship League (www.aifl.org) issued the following statement:
“Our friend and fellow member of the Board of Directors of the America-Israel Friendship League, Joan Peters Caro, died on January 5, 2015 at her home in Chicago in the presence of her family. Joan was a passionate Zionist and advocate for the State of Israel. In 1984, she published “From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine" a deeply researched study of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Her book was variously acclaimed and praised by many experts, but was also vigorously criticized by others. The controversy over the Israel-Palestinian narrative raged for years and continues to this day. Joan chose not to respond or participate directly in the debate about the accuracy of her writing, but for many years lectured and participated in discussions on the subject; paperback copies of her book have been continuously available. She will be missed by many friends.
“The AIFL extends our sincere condolences to her husband, Dr. William Caro, and her daughter Lore Peters, and to other members of her family. May they be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”
Christian Zionists the world over benefitted from Peters’ work, and her book remains a classic.
The pitched battle currently raging over the legitimacy of the claims of both Israel and the Palestinians reminds us that when seeking truth, facts are important, but narrative and appealing to the heart are important, too.
May her memory be blessed.