Imitation may really be the sincerest form of flattery. We Zionists, therefore, should be flattered that our deadly enemies have claimed our history and our land for themselves.
The enemies of the Jewish state and the Jewish people have been trying to reverse history and re-disperse the Jewish people. They employ increasingly sophisticated means, including war, terrorism, and lately a combination of these with a carefully planned and executed diplomatic and cognitive assault aimed at Israel’s supporters and Israelis themselves.
The cognitive part of the attack on our state and people is intended to delegitimize our claim to be the indigenous people of the land of Israel, and to replace us with a fictitious people, the “Palestinians,” who actually are a group of heterogeneous Arabs who have little common history prior to the 20th century.
Nevertheless, the story is that Jews are actually Europeans (this doesn’t account for the half of Israelis whose ancestors did not live in Europe, but nobody cares), and that the Arab inhabitants of the land of Israel have been here for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Jewish history and provenance in the land of Israel are denied, and “Palestinians” are falsely cast as victims of oppression, expulsion and genocide thus appropriating the historical experience of the Jewish people.
Denial of Jewish provenance is pervasive. Yasser Arafat said that there was no Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, and his successor Mahmoud Abbas joined him, despite massive archaeological and historical evidence for the existence of both the first and second Temples. UNESCO, prompted by Arab members, passed a resolution in 2016 referring to the Temple Mount only as “Al Aqsa Mosque/Haram al Sharif,” thus attempting to erase Jewish connections to the site. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat claimed to be “the proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho,” but he is actually descended from Hashemites who lived in Arabia before coming to Israel “many decades ago, but not centuries nor millennia.” Erekat is actually an old-timer among Palestinian Arabs, because many (if not most) of them are descended from migrants who came to Israel in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Jewish history, the story of a people dispossessed from its land treated cruelly in exile, and triumphally reestablishing sovereignty in its historic homeland, seems to the Palestinian Arabs to be a powerful and appealing narrative, so they appropriate it and fit it to their purposes.
Palestinian “history” is a compressed version of Jewish history, with its expulsions and massacres. The nakba, the establishment of the Jewish state which resulted in some 650,000 Arabs fleeing their homes, is presented as a deliberate mass expulsion, an ethnic cleansing at gunpoint. According to historian Benny Morris, probably the most respected authority on the subject, only a small number of Arabs were actually evacuated at gunpoint, and most fled the violence of war or the collapse of Arab society after community leaders left. There was no “master plan” as Palestinian supporters often allege, to ethnically cleanse the land of Arabs. Needless to say, accusations of “genocide” need not be dignified by a response; Arab populations have multiplied several times in Israel after 1948 and in Judea/Samaria/Gaza after 1967.
The process also includes the inversion of reality, in which the Jews are accused of doing to the Palestinians what the Palestinians have done, or wish to do, to them. Israel is accused of ethnic cleansing, targeting children and noncombatants, committing terrorism, establishing an apartheid regime, and racism. But in fact it is the PLO, Hamas and Hezbollah who deliberately target civilians and children, and who are proud to announce that when ‘Palestine’ is declared, no Jews will live in it. Israeli self-defense is called “terrorism,” and Hamas and PLO media report the arrests of actual terrorists as “kidnappings.” Palestinian terrorists, who – like the biblical Amalek – always choose the softest of targets, refer to their exploits as military operations, even when the objective is a school bus.
More than just misrepresenting history and current events, our enemies engage in systematic cultural theft. “Jesus was a Palestinian,” they say, a literally absurd statement – could he have been a Muslim, seven centuries before Mohammad, was he not a Jew, were the inhabitants of Judea the ancestors of the Arabs that call themselves “Palestinians” and not of today’s Jews? All of these things are nonsensical, but yet the proposition resonates.
Another kind of reality inversion is “moral equivalency,” in which the actions of both sides are considered comparable, and the death of a suicide bomber is supposed to be as tragic as those of her victims.
Today is Israel’s memorial day for the victims of war and terrorism, and last night saw a particularly offensive manifestation of moral equivalency, in which the Palestinian narrative was internalized by traumatized Jewish survivors of Arab violence. An organization of “former Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants” called “Combatants for Peace” held an “Alternative Memorial Day” observance:
The Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day ceremony, which has been held on the eve of Memorial Day for the last eleven consecutive years, comes to remind us that war is not an act of fate but one of human choice. This ceremony is the largest annual event held by the Combatants for Peace movement. On this particularly difficult day we call upon both sides to acknowledge the pain and the aspirations of those living on the other side of the fence and for each of us to strive to prevent the next war. Perhaps during next year’s Memorial Day, additional losses will not have to reckoned with. At the ceremony, Israeli and Palestinian bereaved families speak about their personal pain.
Combatants for Peace receives significant funding from Germany, Switzerland and Belgium, among other foreign sources. According to NGO Monitor, “Combatants for Peace activities reflect a strong affiliation with the Palestinian agenda and narrative, placing most of the blame for the conflict on ‘the occupation’.”
While I don’t doubt that the Palestinian mother whose child was shot to death while trying to stab a random Jew or while throwing a firebomb feels a pain that is similar to that of the Jewish mother of a child that was stabbed or burned in such an attack, the idea that both the victim and the perpetrator deserve to be honored on memorial day is obscene. Apparently some Jewish Israelis felt it was obscene enough to try to disrupt the events; and while I oppose disruption of peaceful speech no matter how stupid and offensive, I can certainly see their point.
The accumulated weight of UNESCO decisions, Arab propaganda, and yes – the subversive actions of (mostly) well-meaning Israelis – weakens the state both from within and without. The Palestinian narrative seems unbelievable to those of us who have even a slight acquaintance with Jewish history, but many people believe it, even in supposedly advanced countries.
It’s ironic that the same people that accuse us of cultural appropriation of falafel are the greatest historical/cultural thieves of all.