Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Myth of the Myth of Palestine

In a particularly old-fashioned attempt to justify why the Palestinians as a people and a region (Palestine), firstly don't exist and secondly by (il)logical extension don't have a shred of a right to a Nation of their own, a blogger by the nom de guerre of Alexandra created a post called The Myth of Palestine (Part II).

The arguments presented in meticulous detail, I'll concede that, are as old as the hills and have been used on either side of the Israel/Palestine debate and regard who lived in the region we now somewhat ambiguously call Israel/Palestine, what they were called, where they in turn came from and went to, who their ancestors' ancestors where, etc etc, all carbon-dated back to x thousands of years ago, x depending on how far back the navel-staring amateur "historian" just wants to go, to try and prove points regarding the legitimacy of the State of Israel and the Palestinians right to self-determination.

I said that this kind of historical soul and root searching appears on both sides of the argument but of late it does appear to be a particularly Judeo-Christian pastime.

It's futile and unnecessary to refute the claims and counter-claims regarding land, when these claims go back to times immemorial. Often it's impossible to accurately do so. But the claims are a counter-productive attempt to legitimise the existence of one state (Israel), a legitimacy that is not seriously in doubt, and undermine as yet unfulfilled claims by another party, the Palestinians.

Perhaps there is indeed one simple way of sweeping Alexandra's claims off the table, once and for all. Nation States and their peoples are a very recent phenomenon: Alexandra claims via the "historical route" to be able to prove the Palestinian people don't exist, a highly contentious claim, even by any stretch of historical imagination. But I doubt if anyone will deny the American people only came into existence in 1776, prior to American independence there simply was no such thing as an "American People". This principle can be applied to all modern Nation States at some date or other.

It's a matter of fact that the world's population is largely one of immigrants and emigres: people and entire peoples have migrated from one area to another since time immemorial and land grabs form the basis of most modern Nation States. The latter served mainly as legitimisation of these faits accomplis.

If we somehow were to try and restore the world's land to its "original owners" we'd have our work cut out. Who are we to give the land now called United Kingdom back too? The Swedish (the Viking connection)? The Germans (the Saxon connection)? The Italians (the Roman connection)? Partly to the Scottish? I could just go on...

Perhaps we should simply honour the "Out of Africa" theory and leave these shores in search of our ancient homelands...

Alexandra's "wishing the Palestinians away" on the basis of "historical" "data" is in stark contrast with very strong empirical evidence to the contrary. Where are the Palestinians? Oh, yes, there they are; in the Occupied Territories, in Gaza and in a ton of refugee camps inside and outside Israel/Palestine! Let me try and pinch one in the arm, to see if he does actually exist. No, I don't really need to do that, now do I? They're there alright...

Sadly, Alexandra and people of her ilk are often also proud Islamophobes and accuse anyone who doesn't completely, unconditionally and uncritically support Israel of... anti-Semitism.

Alexandra's views are also largely behind the times and out of sync with the reality on the ground in Israel: Kadima's looming election victory indicates that most Israelis are aware of the fact and accept the fact that the Palestinians aren't simply going to go away and that the issue will have to be dealt with, unilaterally or, hopefully, otherwise. What, in contrast, Alexandra plans to with these people remains unclear but I suspect it might be something altogether more sinister...

Alexandra's blogpost attracted loads of comments but one in particular grabbed my attention for its down-to-earth realism. It's by
Joseph Marshall and it's reprinted here in it's entirety:
This is the usual disingenuous fan dance. The fact of thousands of Arabs living in Gaza, or on the west side of the Jordan River, is just that: a fact. Not only that, it has been a fact far longer than the State of Israel or the Palestine Mandate. Period.
Nobody is "giving" them that land in any way. They have been already there for time out of mind. And, in 1948, they simply abandoned the land within the original boundaries of the State of Israel.

The original Israelis just got lucky that they didn't have to contend with this basic fact before 1967, and within Israel's original borders. So, for twenty years, they were able to make the Jewish state they wanted.

For nearly forty years since the Israelis have deluded themselves that those thousands of Arabs living on the Occupied Territories are going to somehow magically disappear and leave all the land they are living on to be settled by Israelis. And for forty years they have acted toward the territory they occupied in 1967 accordingly.

This hasn't really worked very well for anybody, even the Israelis. And this is because it was a simple defiance of a very plain fact. Defying facts doesn't work.

You still talk and act as if those thousands of Arabs are going to magically disappear. They are not going to magically disappear. The only way in which the fact that thousands of Arabs are already living there can be altered is genocide. Period.

This is the basis for any sensible view of the situation. All the legalisms, all the special pleading from "history", all the "Arabs are evil savages", all the "Mohammed is the scourge of Christian Civilization" will not make that fact go away. Period.

Only genocide will make that fact go away.

A majority of Israelis, starting with Arial Sharon, are finally beginning to deal with that fact, and with a few other facts.

The State of Israel is largely a secular, non-Orthodox, state. Like the secular states of Europe it is not renewing the ethnically Jewish population at nearly the same speed that the Arabs in Gaza, or the West Bank, are expanding the Arab population. Hence to try to "Israelize" those territories is an invitation to suicide by slow poison for the State of Israel.

This is exactly the same dilemma that you are constantly pointing out in secular Europe.

The logical course of action this implies-- since, unlike Europe, Israel actually still does have a choice in the matter--is exactly what Sharon has initiated: "disengagement" and fortification of the boundary.

This means a de facto Palestinian Arab state of one sort or another. It will simply be up to the Arabs already there to choose the kind of state they will make. If it is hostile to Israel, it will never be very effective in acting on that hostility.

In fact, as disengagement and fortification have proceeded, the terrorist organizations have become steadily less and less effective. This will continue.

The Israelis have largely come to their senses and finally faced facts.

It would be nice if their cheerleaders on the sidelines would do the same thing. And not just about Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank, either.

The billions of Muslims worldwide is also a very plain fact. And the millions of Muslims in Europe is as well. And the rest of us do not have the choice the Israelis still have.

The constant, hysterical, whooping up of the "Clash Of Civilizations" is simply another form of defiance of very plain facts.

Or, if it isn't mere unworkable defiance of plain facts, it is the systematic building of a network of excuses leading to deliberate actions of quite well-known 20th Century moral horror with unparalleled 21st Century scope.

So I would say to anyone so glamored by a Muslim/Christian Clash Of Civilizations, be careful what you wish for. It just might come true, and you will eventually have to account for your part in creating it.

Keywords: ,


At 11:38 AM, Blogger Joseph Marshall said...

Thanks for the link and thanks for stopping by.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Wolfie said...

I absolutely agree with you, I stopped by that blog some months ago and couldn't believe the hate-filled bile that was spewing forth. Naturally it only took two (balanced in my view) posts to be angrily labelled an Anti-Semite. That site should be labelled a hate site.

On another note, I used to have a passion for ancient history, something I'd add on her "historical [ahem] analysis :

I have seen 16th century maps marking the regions of Palestine and Judea and have viewed texts mentioning Palestine dating about 300 BC or older but strangely these documents keep disappearing....

You know, "private collectors".

At 4:37 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Playing the anti-Semite card is hardly a surprise: many of these bloggers carry the "Proud Islamophobe" badge, quite literally too...

At 6:47 PM, Blogger Sophia said...


Thanks for this post. I agree with the analysis. All the spin and hype won't make a fact disappear. Actually with the publication of thwe 'Israel lobby' piece in the LRB, I wondered not onl;y what is driving US foreign policy in the middle east but also what is driving the neo-con zionist policy in attacking Iraq ? The answer is simple: distracting the whole world from the palestinian question by creating as many foyers of terror and horror in the middle east and this might give them some more time to fabricate facts on the ground lie unilateral moves and son on...

I have a proposition for you and other bloggers interested in the question: Why not open a group blog called : 'Blogging for Palestine' where we post daily and exhaustively about the conflict ?
I try to do that but I am not always successful given my occupations (I am a university professor, mother and wife).
Moreover, I think that creating a group effect with a large participation might serve the palestinian cause which is not well reported in the western media.

At 7:22 PM, Blogger Gert said...


I'm sure such groups of bloggers already exist, it's rather a matter of finding them than creating another.

There are also plenty of fora on this subject but it's harder to find one that doesn't quickly degrade into mudslinging matches between "pro" and "anti". This is something we're all guilty of to some extent: the blame-game...

The whole Israel/Palestine debate often reaches debilitating lows and that's something that's simply not useful.

Our only hope is to develop a sense of perspective between "self" and "other". This is as much true of those in the thick of the conflict, as it it of those standing on the sidelines.

Another inspiring text is the following:

Excerpt from an essay by Avraham Berg.
A Failed Israeli Society Collapses While Its Leaders Remain Silent

It is very comfortable to be a Zionist in West Bank settlements such as Beit El and Ofra. The biblical landscape is charming. From the window you can gaze through the geraniums and bougainvilleas and not see the occupation. Travelling on the fast highway that takes you from Ramot on Jerusalem's northern edge to Gilo on the southern edge, a 12-minute trip that skirts barely a half-mile west of the Palestinian roadblocks, it's hard to comprehend the humiliating experience of the despised Arab who must creep for hours along the pocked, blockaded roads assigned to him. One road for the occupier, one road for the occupied.

This cannot work. Even if the Arabs lower their heads and swallow their shame and anger forever, it won't work. A structure built on human callousness will inevitably collapse in on itself. Note this moment well: Zionism's superstructure is already collapsing like a cheap Jerusalem wedding hall. Only madmen continue dancing on the top floor while the pillars below are collapsing.

We have grown accustomed to ignoring the suffering of the women at the roadblocks. No wonder we don't hear the cries of the abused woman living next door or the single mother struggling to support her children in dignity. We don't even bother to count the women murdered by their husbands.

Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism. They consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants in order to ruin our appetites, because they have children and
parents at home who are hungry and humiliated.

We could kill a thousand ringleaders and engineers a day and nothing will be solved, because the leaders come up from below - from the wells of hatred and anger, from the "infrastructures" of injustice and moral corruption.

The time for illusions is over. We cannot keep a Palestinian majority under an Israeli boot and at the same time think ourselves the only democracy in the Middle East. There cannot be democracy without equal rights for all who live here, Arab as well as Jew.

That's what the prime minister should say to the people. He should present the choices forthrightly: Jewish racialism or democracy. Settlements or hope for both peoples. False visions of barbed wire, roadblocks and suicide bombers, or a recognized international border between two states and a shared capital in Jerusalem.

Avraham Berg was speaker of Israel's Knesset from 1999 to 2003 and is a former chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is currently a Labor Party Knesset member.


Thanks for your comment.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Jay Draiman said...

NO PALESTINIAN STATE – No land concessions R4.

Imagine that the various people who settled in the United States for the past 300 years decided one day that they one to parcel the United States into an independent State just for them, would the American public go for it. The Answer is absolutely NO.

The situation in Israel today is no different. The Arabs there are not Palestinians, there is no such Arab nation as Palestine or Palestinian people.

Europeans countries today are consisting of numerous people from other countries. Would the Europeans people cede part of their country to set up another State in their midst. The answer is absolutely NO.

All the Arabs in Israel and surrounding areas are from the various Arab nations, such as Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and other Arab nations.

Prominent PLO Arab says there are no 'Palestinians' and no "Palestine"

PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein admitted in a March 31, 1977 interview with a Dutch newspaper Trouw.

"The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism. "

The Qur'an 17:104 - states the land belongs to the Jewish people

If the historic documents, comments written by eyewitnesses and declarations by the most authoritative Arab scholars are still not enough, let us quote the most important source for Muslim Arabs:
"And thereafter we [Allah] said to the Children of Israel: 'Dwell securely in the Promised Land. And when the last warning will come to pass, we will gather you together in a mingled crowd'.".
YUSUFALI: And We said thereafter to the Children of Israel, "Dwell securely in the land (of promise)": but when the second of the warnings came to pass, We gathered you together in a mingled crowd.
PICKTHAL: And We said unto the Children of Israel after him: Dwell in the land; but when the promise of the Hereafter cometh to pass We shall bring you as a crowd gathered out of various nations.
SHAKIR: And We said to the Israelites after him: Dwell in the land: and when the promise of the next life shall come to pass, we will bring you both together in judgment.
- Qur'an 17:104 -
Any sincere Muslim must recognize the Land they call "Palestine" as the Jewish Homeland, according to the book considered by Muslims to be the most sacred word and Allah's ultimate revelation.

Sequence of historical events, agreements and a non-broken series of treaties and resolutions, as laid out by the San Remo Resolution, the League of Nations and the United Nations, gives the Jewish People title to the city of Jerusalem and the rest of Israel totaling approximately 45,000 square miles, as mandated by the League of Nations in July of 1922. The process began at San Remo, Italy, when the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I - Great Britain, France, Italy and Japan - agreed to create a Jewish national home in what is now the Land of Israel. (You might as well break apart Syria which was mandated at the same time).

Jay Draiman.

20 Years of Research Reveals Jerusalem Belongs to Jews

(IsraelNN.com) Jacques Gauthier, a non-Jewish Canadian lawyer who spent 20 years researching the legal status of Jerusalem, has concluded: "Jerusalem belongs to the Jews, by international law.".

Gauthier has written a doctoral dissertation on the topic of Jerusalem and its legal history, based on international treaties and resolutions of the past 90 years.


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