The greatest enemy of the Jewish state is neither Iran nor Hamas. Israel can defend herself against the concrete threats they pose.
Our greatest enemy is that which turns the rest of the world against us, that which justifies European boycotts and American demands for concessions to the PLO, that which provides a fig leaf for every kind of Jew hatred, both that of the Right and that of the Left.
Of course I am talking about the so-called ‘Palestinian narrative’, that version of history that removes all moral justification for the existence of our state, and is responsible for recent attempts to re-interpret international law in order to limit our right to the land of Israel.
This narrative is an internally consistent conceptual scheme. There are grains of truth in it, points of contact with reality that make it plausible. But overall it is false, in many ways a complete inversion of historical fact.
The Palestinian Narrative
According to it, ‘Palestinians’ are a unique people indigenous to the land of Israel, having lived there for hundreds of years (some versions even claim that they are descended from various groups mentioned in the Bible). Zionist Jews, fleeing persecution in Europe, colonized the land and dispossessed the Palestinians by force. Like European colonialists in Africa, Jews relate to Palestinians in an oppressive and racist way.
Unlike Palestinians, the narrative doesn’t recognize Jews as a unique people, or as having any connection with the land. Jews are just Poles or Germans who profess the Jewish religion. Mizrachi Jews are called ‘Arab Jews’. Some versions argue that the Jews of today are descended from Khazars, a Turkic people living in what is now southeastern Russia from the 7th to 10th century. Others even deny the existence of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem or claim that archeological evidence of a Jewish presence in biblical Israel is faked.
The narrative implies that the establishment of Israel as the Jewish homeland was an illegitimate act of colonialism, which voids the legal foundations of the state and justifies the violent ‘resistance’ against it by ‘Palestinians’.
Europeans are especially influenced by this narrative because of guilt over their own history of colonialism and racism.
But the main points of it are false. The facts are these:
There is a Jewish people and it is indigenous to the land of Israel
If there is any group that can properly be called a ‘people’, it is the Jewish people. Genetic studies have shown that both Ashkenazi and Mizrachi Jews have close links to the Middle East, links which are not shared by other Europeans (the Khazar theory is just nonsense). In addition, Jews meet all requirements for a people: a unique language, literature and religion; common cultural traditions (including a taboo on intermarriage – and even eating – with non-Jews); and, importantly, a consistent self-identification as members of a people.
There have always been Jews living in the land of Israel
This group has a historical lineage that can be traced back to the time of King David or before, a connection that has been maintained despite countless expulsions, persecutions, conquests and pogroms. Jews have lived in the land of Israel for thousands, not hundreds, of years, although the size of the population has fluctuated. This can be established beyond reasonable doubt by archaeology.
Arabs are newcomers
Muslim Arabs first came to the land as invaders in 629 CE (one could call them ‘colonialists’). Since then, the Arab population fluctuated widely, with the number of Arabs reaching a low point around 1830. Richard Mather writes,
Clearly it would be futile to argue that there were few Arabs living in Palestine in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, but the figures do show that the Arab population of Palestine had been in state of flux for centuries and that the overwhelming majority were migrants from the rest of the Arab world and/or the Ottoman empire. This is important because it tells us that the postmodern notion of a deep-rooted Palestinian Arab history/culture is bogus. All the evidence points to the conspicuous absence of Arab culture in late 17th century Palestine; and even in the 18th and 19th centuries the Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not indigenous but were latecomers. This explains why, historically, Arabs never talked about Palestinian identity – because there wasn’t one. They were Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi and Ottoman Arabs, and many of them expressed allegiance to the concept of a Greater Syria. In fact, until the 1960s the Arabs refused to call themselves Palestinians because it was a name reserved for the Jews! It seems hilarious now, but Immanuel Kant, the 18th-century German philosopher, referred to Jews in Europe as “Palestinians living among us.”
The Arab population increased rapidly after about 1830, for various reasons. After the beginning of Zionist immigration in the late 1880s, the economic development created by the Zionists was a not-inconsiderable drawing card. Mather continues,
Firstly, several thousand peasant farmers had come to Palestine in the first half of the 19th century to escape Egypt’s military draft, forced labour and taxes. Secondly, the Ottoman authorities transferred a great many people from Morocco, Algeria and Egypt to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century, partly in an effort to outflank Jewish immigration. Thirdly, the Zionist project was very attractive to Arabs who were drawn to Palestine by the good wages, healthcare and sanitation offered by the Jews. Indeed, the Muslim infant mortality rate in Palestine fell from 201 per 1,000 in 1925 to 94 per 1,000 in 1945. Meanwhile, life expectancy rose from 37 to 49 years.
Furthermore, the Arab population of Palestine increased the most in cities where there were large numbers of Jews, which is a strong indication that Arabs were drawn to Palestine because of the Zionists. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population grew by 290 per cent in Haifa, 158 per cent in Jaffa and 131 per cent in Jerusalem. Tellingly, the growth in Arab-majority towns was far less dramatic: 37 per cent in Bethlehem, 42 per cent in Nablus and 78 per cent in Jenin.
The ‘Palestinian people’ are a recent invention
Arab Palestinian nationalism started to develop in the early part of the 20th century, but Arabs didn’t even refer to themselves as ‘Palestinians’ until the 1960s. If there is a ‘Palestinian people’ – and I would say that there is today – it came into being only very recently, as a direct result of the struggle against the Jewish state and even as a deliberate attempt to advance that struggle.
But what are the essential elements of ‘Palestinian’ culture, as opposed to the broader regional Arab culture? Only the ‘struggle’. Nothing else. Its heroes are the ones who have killed the most Jews. Its literature and educational and cultural institutions are focused on the Cause. This has produced a remarkably unbalanced culture that has been called a ‘death cult’.
Far more Jews were dispossessed by force than Arabs
During the 1948 war, about 650,000 Arabs (the number is in dispute) left their homes in what would become Israel. Some wealthy Arabs went to summer homes to avoid the coming chaotic situation. Some fled from fear of battles or revenge that they assumed Jews would take on them. After the battle at Deir Yassin, exaggerated accounts of a massacre of civilians, rape of women, etc., caused panic among the Arabs. And a smaller number were expelled because their villages continued to be a source of hostile activity in strategic locations, such as the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem road. But most legitimate historians agree that there was no overall plan for deliberate ethnic cleansing, and the fact is that some 150,000 remained.
In those parts of the land that were under Egyptian or Jordanian control at the end of the war, no Jews remained. And between 1920 and 1970 some 900,000 Jews were expelled from Arab and other Muslim countries. These Jews primarily went to Israel, France and the US where they were absorbed and able to become citizens. Arab refugees were kept in camps by their host governments, their rights were severely limited, and they were not permitted to become citizens.
Palestinians, not Jews, are guilty of racism and desire an apartheid state
The PLO has demanded that no Jewish settlements remain in land that would be given to them in a proposed peace settlement. Mahmoud Abbas said that “In a final solution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.” Of course he means “no Jews allowed” just like most other Arab countries.
Palestinian Authority and Hamas official media and education systems are highly anti-Jewish, combining the worst of traditional Muslim Jew-hatred with memes borrowed from Nazi Germany and Czarist Russia.
Violent ‘resistance’ is not a response to ‘occupation’
Part of the mythology surrounding the Palestinian narrative is that the terrorism that characterizes the Palestinian movement is justified as resistance to colonial occupation. As we have seen, if there has been any occupation, it was Arabs that did the occupying. But violence by Arabs against Jews goes back to the early 20th century (the violent riots instigated by al-Husseini in 1920, 1929 and 1936) and even before (see the pogrom in Tzfat in 1834). The fact is that Muslim Arabs always viewed the Jews as inferior and therefore legitimate targets. Violence became more focused as soon as the possibility – and then the fact – of Jewish sovereignty raised its head. For religious and cultural reasons, Arabs do not accept the idea of a Jewish state.
When the League of Nations established the Mandate for Palestine with the goal of creating a “national home for the Jewish people,” it made the decision to do so because they recognized that the Jewish people were indigenous to the land of Israel, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean. It also recognized that there were non-Jewish groups living there, and the mandate specified that their “civil and religious” rights must not be abridged. But national rights were reserved for the Jewish people.
The Mandate, therefore, was the opposite of a colonialist document. It recognized the existence of an indigenous people and directed the colonial power that was in control of the area to gradually transfer control to that people. Of course the British almost immediately tried to subvert the intent of the document and keep control of the territory; and when that failed, to transfer it to the Arabs rather than the Jews. But the Jews succeeded in throwing the British out in a clearly anti-colonialist fashion.
By inverting the truth, the Palestinian narrative provides a basis to deny the rights of the Jewish people, both morally and in international law.
All this is easily verified. But for some reason official Israel itself has not stressed the indigenous nature of the Jewish people. Sometimes it even seems as though we accept the Palestinian story, and apologize for our behavior. When we do this we participate in the project to bring about our own destruction.
Like the well-worn cartoon picture of a bull in a china shop, President Obama has produced the most un-American ‘victory’ in appeasement of Iran, driven a wedge in the formerly bipartisan support for Israel (or called the bluff of its lukewarm supporters), and will now have the opportunity to do more damage on behalf of the Palestinians–I assume this is the reason for this and the many other articles now appearing to push back on the Palestinian narrative. You have actually given these arguments on several occasions, so it must be the near certainty that the President is coming for Israel in the time left him after he has put into motion this fortification of the greatest strategic threat Israel faces, Iran, that is the occasion of reprising them.
As you have also pointed out, these arguments don’t work on European elites, American leftists (and the institutions in the latter’s pocket: the Press and Academia), hardcore anti-Semites wherever they are, and, of course, most Muslims. But if they can be used, as Caroline Glick proposes, as an offensive weapon, then these points of reason should be given the most chest-thumping airing of any Israeli demurrers in addition to the hardest resistance to the prescriptions of these same parties and the hardiest defense for the expansion of the homeland that victory requires.
The Palestinians, those that did not want to be Israeli citizens, should have been transferred long ago to Jordan. It would have been a mercy to Israelis and a just balancing of the ejection of Jews from their ancient communities throughout the Middle East.
We are coming to the time that the President will now help push for a Palestinian state and I hope there is not a reasonable Israeli alive who believes a word of sympathy or support, or any promise he has made to the state before now, or any to be pitched in the near 500 days left for him to also continue his quest to ruin my country. In every dealing with him, there must be no compromise. Whether you are on the left in Israel, or not, you are all Zionists and you have to protect yourself from the wrecking operation that our poor choice in leaders has wrought upon the world. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but I believe the Iranians–many of whom were educated in the US–, know what an anomaly this fellow is in our nation’s history, and therefore the window for action will be closed to them for their, as yet, incomplete laundry list after he is gone. I believe these last 500 days will be the most perilous for Israel, so your fellow Israelis need to imbibe your words and arguments to feel their righteousness in their bones as they battle what is coming for them.
My only hope and scant optimism springs from the fact that the American people really do not favor the Iran deal, they do not trust Islam and they don’t like what’s been going on for the last 6 1/2 years. Your words have to be imbibed by us as well, but we have the impediments of a coopted Press and a doctrinaire and indoctrinating academic establishment to overcome, even if we embrace the truth.
Not to make too much of it, but when I was young and I saw young people slightly older than myself participating in anti-war protests, and watched the Pete Seegers and Peter, Paul and Marys belt out their heartfelt wish for peace, I was impressed. I am not impressed now. What it takes to keep a country going is a shared culture and a sense that we’re all pulling in the same direction. This leftward pull that has been occurring for over 40 years over here has brought the sneering John Stewarts and Thomas Friedmans and the reveal of countless bad actors, including Pete Seeger, about the condition of Israel. Maybe it seemed like if Israel bent, the other side would too. That’s not going to happen. The truth as you’ve described has to be the shield, and hard-fought and hard-won battle will win the day. Nothing else.
Happy New Year!