A conversation with Alex Grobman: Englewood historian arms Christians with facts about Israel

From The Jewish Standard

by HEATHER ROBINSON

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Alex Grobman, historian and Englewood resident, spoke last week and over the Fourth of July weekend with The Jewish Standard about his book “The Palestinian Right to Israel.” (The book is published by Balfour Books, a division of the Christian ICON Publishing Group. See related story.)

Grobman, a former director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, serves as executive director of the America-Israel Friendship League, a New York-based nonprofit dedicated to fostering connections between Christians and Israelis.

Jewish Standard: Your book, “The Palestinian Right to Israel,” is a reader-friendly history text establishing the connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel, for a non-Jewish audience. Why the provocative title (and are you confident people will get the irony)?

Alex Grobman: The idea was suggested to me by a marketing expert…. Christians, they love the title, but a number of Jewish leaders found it problematic, and so did many Israelis. We are going into a second edition in September, and we’ll change the picture on the front. Now it’s the Dome of the Rock; in the next printing it’ll be something Jewish so there won’t be as much misunderstanding.… The idea was to be provocative, and I think it succeeded in that quite well.

J.S.: What made you decide to write for a Christian audience?

A.G.: There are a lot of Christians who are pro-Israel, and I wanted to be sure we had material for them. I had written “Nations United: How the United Nations Undermines Israel and the West.” That book had done well among Christians, and the feeling was they needed additional information. I had been working with a number of students, some from Harvard, Columbia, and NYU…. Information I received from them helped me focus on some issues that needed to be addressed. For instance, the Arabs are going out of their way to make sure there is an attempt to destroy any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel. They are trying to destroy any vestige of physical Jewish connection with Israel. They have succeeded in destroying large amounts of material near the Western Wall.… Read … the book [and] you’ll see they are trying to destroy archeological evidence of connection between Israel and the Jewish people.

J.S.: Why is do you think countering that effort is so important?

A.G.: My concern is when you destroy physical connection, it makes it more difficult to lay your claim.…They deny [Jewish] historical connection to the land, because if we have no historical connection to the land that is Israel, what are we making a fuss about? {Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat said that in all the years [Israelis] have been doing archeological excavations they found not a single stone that the Temple of Solomon was there because the Temple was not in Palestine, it was only remnants of a shrine of Herod. [Arafat was] following [the example of] Goebbels in Nazi Germany: By telling the big lie, by saying something so outrageous, it makes it easier for people to believe.… Abbas, who succeeded Arafat, also says there was no Temple in Jerusalem. This is a man you want to have peace with? Other Arab leaders have also denied the Temple ever existed. In addition, some members of the academic community try to depict Israel as a product of colonialism, and the Jewish connection to the land as tenuous at best.… I and other historians are simply saying this is nothing less than an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state — and there is an abundance of evidence from moral, legal, and historical perspective[s] to justify the existence of the Jewish state. There is probably more justification for Israel’s existence than there is for most states in world today.

J.S.: For some readers, the idea that there is an abundance of evidence of Jewish historical ties to Israel is not news. What is in your book that educated Jews might not know?

A.G.: The extent of uninterrupted Jewish presence in the land [that is Israel today] is not so well-known. It’s also a myth that before Palestine, there was harmony [between Jews and Arabs]. [For example], I quote James Finn, the British consul in Jerusalem from 1846 to 1863, who wrote about the extent to which Jews lived under difficult circumstances. [For instance,] they were required to pay taxes to pray at their holy sites…. The [Arab] villagers of Siloam [were paid] not to vandalize the graves on Mount Scopus…. Also, most Jews know about immigration to Palestine from 1881-1882 onward but they don’t know about the extent that Jews came before that.

[Next,] Arabs have claimed that, as Jews were promised the land in the Balfour Declaration, they were promised the same land by the British government. That is also a false claim [that is debunked in the book]. Third, [the book discusses the] role Arabs played through the mufti of Jerusalem during World War II. The mufti [Haj Amin al-Husseini] mobilized hundreds of thousands of troops who fought against the Allies. He was on the radio in Berlin … encouraging his fellow Muslims wherever they lived to sabotage [the Allies]. The mufti provided information [to the Axis] about British troop movements and engaged in acts of successful sabotage against the British, [having his followers] cut water, fuel, and telephone lines, [and] destroy bridges.… I also write about the incredible role of the Jews of Palestine to support the Allies during World War II.

J.S.: I know the nonprofit you head, the America-Israel Friendship League, specializes in promoting linkages between Christians and Jews. Can you tell me more about it?

A.G.: We focus [nationally] on taking high-level delegations to Israel. Whether superintendents of schools, university professors who teach … Mideast [studies,] or wounded war veterans, the purpose is to provide an opportunity for key members of the American community — non-Jewish for the most part — to see Israel as it really is, not as it is portrayed in the media.

This entry was written by and posted on June 30, 2011 at 1:29 pm and filed under Features.