Still, the worst academic sin committed by Said in The Question of Palestine concerns one critical quotation, in which Said actually removes sentences and even changes a crucial word in a quotation in order to fit his political ideology. To use Said’s own phrase (when he disparages Joan Peter’s From Time Immemorial): Said ‘mangled’ the quotation.88
This occurs the very first time Said quotes an early Zionist. Shrewdly, Said attempts to use the man most closely associated with Zionism, Theodor Herzl, to prove that transfer was an inescapable part of the Zionist plan from the beginning. Yet Said does not quote from Herzl’s two major books on Zionism, The Jewish State or Alt-Neuland—instead, he chooses an obscure passage from Herzl’s diary in 1895:
We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.
Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.89
Said finds this quotation so critical that he does not bother to quote Herzl otherwise—not from his published works or from his diary. Instead, what this ‘scholar’ lacks in evidence, he makes up by actually citing the same quotation twice: precisely the same quotation is used on page 13 and later on pages 70 – 71 (for good measure, the quotation is even referred to a third time on page 100).
Yet this repeated quotation purposely leaves out critical sentences. The full quotation is as follows, with removed sentences underlined and the changed word in bold:
When we occupy the land, we shall bring immediate benefits to the state that receives us. We must expropriate gently the private property on the estates assigned to us.
We shall try
to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country.
The property-owners will come over to our side.
Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.
Let the owners of immovable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth.
But we are not going to sell them anything back.90
By removing the underlined sentences, Said takes what is clearly a class reference, and leads one to believe that Herzl is referring to all of Palestine’s native inhabitants. Still, most disingenuous of all is not that it is an incomplete quotation (without proper notation), but that he changes the key word of ‘try’ to ‘have’, suggesting that Herzl believed that it was impossible for a Jewish state to come to fruition without removing the native population. It is important to note that this is not a question of whose translation he used either—I quoted from the very same edition of the same translation.
Yet, even if this quotation was unaltered, it is far from a quotation which could be considered historically representative of what Herzl believed. The proof lies in simply examining the journal entry immediately following the one quoted by Said (even written on the same day), which begins with sentiments much closer to Herzl’s typical thoughts on the subject:
It goes without saying that we shall respectfully tolerate persons of other faiths and protect their property, their honour, and their freedom with the harshest means of coercion. This is another area in which we shall set the entire old world a wonderful example.91
Again, on the same day, Herzl writes:
Estate owners who are attached to their soil because of old age, habit, etc. will be offered a complete transplantation—to any place they wish, like our own people. This offer will be made when all others have been rejected.
If this offer is not accepted either, no harm will be done. Such close attachment to the soil is found only with small properties. Big ones are to be had for a price.
Should there be many such immovable owners in individual areas, we shall simply leave them there and develop our commerce in the direction of other areas which belong to us.92
But the transfer quotation chosen by Said shows none of this, and, indeed, it is clear that Said had to ignore actively these and other passages because they disproved precisely what he wanted his readers to believe.
Moreover, Said’s choice is a quotation from 1895, in the first few months of Herzl’s journal and in the first year of Herzl’s ‘conversion’ to Zionism. To quote Herzl at this moment would be as fair as to claim that Herzl always believed in converting all Jewish children to Christianity, because in his very first journal entry, he discusses how two years previously he had proposed such a conversion scheme in order to solve the problem of anti-Semitism.93
In fact, far from being Herzl’s deep-rooted and hidden plan for how to ‘deal with the natives’, this quotation is only characteristic of how Herzl worked. First, Herzl was an intricate planner, and wanted immediately to plan every detail. For instance, only a few days before the quotation used by Said, Herzl writes that: ‘The High Priests will wear impressive robes; our cuirassiers, yellow trousers and white tunics; the officers, silver breast- plates.’94 Only a few months after he is struck with the idea of a Jewish state, he is planning out the precise colours for the priest’s garb during religious ceremonies.
More importantly, for understanding Herzl’s true thinking it is critical to note that he also allowed himself to write ideas in his journal as they came into his head without screening them as part of a brain storming process, and only later discounted the bad ideas. As Herzl himself wrote the day before the ‘damning’ quotation used repeatedly by Said:
Much in these notes will seem ludicrous, exaggerated, crazy. But if I had exercised self-criticism, as I do in my literary work, my ideas would have been stunted. However, the gigantic serves the purpose better than the dwarfed, because anyone can do the trimming easily enough. Artists will understand why I, otherwise of rather clear intelligence, have let exaggerations and dreams proliferate among my practical, political, and legislative ideas, as green grass sprout among cobble-stones. I could not permit myself to be forced into the straitjacket of sober facts. This mild intoxication has been necessary.95
This later process of adjusting his original ideas is precisely what Herzl eventually did. For instance, Herzl quickly dropped notions of nobility, and went back and forth on the place religious authority figures in his future state. Early in his dairy, Herzl wrote: ‘The Wonder Rabbi of Sadagura to be brought over and installed as something like the bishop of a province. In fact, win over the entire clergy.’96 Yet only a few months later, in The Jewish State (Chapter 5), Herzl writes with a much nastier tone: ‘We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples in the same way as we shall keep our professional army within the confines of their barracks..... Etc etc etc