Thursday, August 16, 2007

Melanie Phillips on the Palestinians

Melanie Phillips comes clean. Finally, it was about time. Mel's myopia stems from a hermetic worldview, one in which there is no room for doubt or error. And now she shows her true colours in her latest diatribe against Jeremy Greenstock, someone who dares to believe peace between Israel and the Palestinians is actually possible: anathema!
Hamas is not a ‘political-grievance-based entity’ because, contrary to Sir Jeremy’s assertion, ‘the Palestinian people’ was not dispossessed — for the very good reason that a) they were not ‘a people’ because there never was a ‘Palestinian people’, but merely Arabs who lived in pre-Israel Palestine b) they were not ‘dispossessed’ because they never possessed it in the first place.

It's now only a matter of time before Melanie adopts the true parlance of the peace-objectors and starts calling the Palestinians "Pseudostinians", "Fakestinians", "Fakostinians", "Palarbs", "Islamonazis" and the other many derogatory epithets that are used to malign an entire people. Needless to say, if anyone applied similar terms of derogation to Israelis or Diaspora Jews, Melanie would be screaming the A-word from the highest building, at the top of her voice. Mel, you disappoint me: I never liked what you stand for but at least you were consistent. No longer...

9 Comments:

At 11:09 AM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: If you actually gave some concrete proof that there's an entity known as the "Palestinian" people, I'd be glad to agree with you and stop addressing our neighbors to the East as "Pseudostinians."

Having said that, there is no proof of such an entity exists available to you or anyone else for that matter.

In acy case take a try. Please tell me some facts about the history of the "Palestinians" prior to the creation of the State of Israel. Please base your info. on valid historical sources(not revisionist history).

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Eitan:

I wouldn't know where to start. There really is such an overwhelming body of evidence, much of which goes back to the 19th century, to a period even before the Zionist movement starts taking shape, that I feel silly having to "convince" someone that there is such a thing as the "Palestinian people".

The deniers, like yourself, are very much a small minority that have adopted this pseudo-narrative ("there are no Palestinians") because it would justify ethnically cleansing (by whatever means chosen) all of Israel/Palestine to create an Arab-free Eretz Israel without suffering from a guilty conscience.

As regards "revisionist" history, I seriously doubt if you really understand the term "revisionism" outside of the pejorative meaning that that term has acquired. In any case to most "non-revisionist" Israeli historians and historiographers the existence of an indigenous people made up of both Jews and Palestinians much prior to 1947 is simply not an issue of debate: there is some light squabbling about actual demographical numbers, because for most of the pre-1947 period there are no 100% reliable censuses that allow completely accurate establishment of the actual numbers.

The Palestinian-deniers tend, like all conspiracy theorists (because today "the Palestinians don't exist" IS a conspiracy theory), to hopelessly contradict themselves, mainly because wilfully or through incompetence they conflate terms like "a people", "ethnicity", "country", "region", "nation", "Nation State", "Nationality" etc etc. As well as this deliberate or inadvertent (but in any case self-serving) conflation of definitions they also tend to turn truths into convenient half-truths. One classical example is "the Palestinians didn't start to call themselves that until 1967, ergo they didn't exist prior to 1967". Well, it's true that the Palestinian national narrative does take a turn after 1967 because their history actually takes a turn at that point in time! All national narratives (of all peoples, including the Israeli narrative) changes over time to fit the paradigm of the times.

Take for instance Britain's history: prior to the British Union, this is (very simply put) a tale of two "heroic tribes", and after the Union becomes a fact, the narrative becomes the tale of the "glorious Union" ("Brittania, Brittania Rules the Waves").

How many young Americans realise that support of their country for Israel starts only in 1967 (and is not as old as the Old Testament itself, as so many seem to believe) and that their country, in 1956, took a strong stance against Anglo-Franco-Israeli collusion in the 1956 Suez crisis, forcing a cease-fire and even causing the fall of a British PM (Anthony Eden)?

So, national narratives do tend to change over time, often reflecting political expedience, but that doesn't change what actually happened and what is usually recorded by objective, independent and peer-reviewed historians.

I feel sure I haven't convinced you but the only one who can do that is you: consult respectable, peer-reviewed books, written by your own people, either from what you would call the "revisionist" camp or the "non-revisionist" camp; the narrative regarding Palestinian history will almost not differ at all, except for perhaps some minor details.

I believe that you have been grossly lied to, perhaps during your days with Kach. Go on, I dare you to read a few decent books, rather than rely on the constant twaddle that is bandied around on the Internet by people who proclaim half-baked ideas they've only half-digested to be the truth...

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: I will, as you suggest, try and confirm what I already know and try to weed out the prejudices I may have acquired in the past. But first, I'd like to build an argument based on what I already do know.

You claim:

In any case to most "non-revisionist" Israeli historians and historiographers the existence of an indigenous people made up of both Jews and Palestinians much prior to 1947 is simply not an issue of debate: there is some light squabbling about actual demographical numbers, because for most of the pre-1947 period there are no 100% reliable censuses that allow completely accurate establishment of the actual numbers.

And I agree-in part. Prior to '47 the Jews of Palestine were known as Palestinians, that is fact. But you claim that Palestinian history goes back to before '47. If you're referring to the early Zionists of the first 3 aliyot, you're right. There were Palestinians in Israel(Jews) priot to '47. There is no evidence that I've come accross to show that any Arabs began dubbing themselves "Palestinian" prior to the 6-Day War.

Only than does the "Palestinian" narrative take off and how it takes off indeed!

Please correct whatever I may be missing in my argument.

Take care for now...

 
At 4:30 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Eitan:

"But you claim that Palestinian history goes back to before '47."

It's not me that claims anything, like you I wasn't around at the time and for accounts of pre-1947 Palestine I need to rely on reliable, scrutinised, peer-reviewed sources of information. Most of Israeli academics on the subject (whether they be "revisionist" [your parlance, not mine] or not) do not dispute in any way the existence of a mixed population (mixed Arab/Jewish) up to centuries prior to the creation of the state of Israel). To deny this is on a par with denying the earth is spherical and not flat or that our solar system is geocentric and not heliocentric.

Again we go around in circles due to your conflation of terms, a semantic game that isn't only silly but seriously disingenuous. It does not matter one iota, one little jot, what the Arab population of Palestine called themselves long before Israel came about. For all I care they were called hottentots: it simply doesn't matter at all. What does matter is that they lived in an area called Palestine (from the Latin "Palestina"), roughly corresponding to pre-1947 British Mandate Palestine.

Did your ancestors of the Kingdoms of Israel call themselves "Israelis"? Or did they consider themselves Hebrews, Israelites or something else? I really couldn't care less because it simply doesn't matter. What about the era preceding early Judaism? These weren't your forefathers? YHWH poofed the Jewish people into existence, ready-made so to speak?

 
At 2:43 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: I don't understand why you say that the semantics "game" we're toddling around is disingenious. I, for one, am trying to be as genuine as possible with you.

And I don't understand this statement:

It does not matter one iota, one little jot, what the Arab population of Palestine called themselves long before Israel came about.

No, it doesn't but that's not the point. The modern-day "Palestinians" claim that all of modern-day Israel belongs to them. Their claims are based broadly speaking on their attempts to carve out some kind of legitimacy for themselves as the "Palestinians" or the descendants of the Phillistines, a people who dwelt in and around modern day Gaza at the time of the second temple, a people whom the Jews fought and eventually defeated.

If this claim of descendancy is true, historically speaking, the "Palestinians" are entitled to all of the Gaza Strip and nothing more. But they claim that because their ancestors dwelt in modern-day Israel(in reality there were Bedouin settlement only in Yaffa, Haifa, and J'lem I believe).

My point is this: the "Palestinians" try to get legitimacy by being dubbed "Palestinian" instead of Bedouin or hottentots as you wisely suggest;) This legitimacy stems from what you just said: that this land was given the name "Palestine" coming from the ancient term "Phaleshet" (where the Phillistines in term got their name from), following the Roman conquest of Judea.

 
At 3:21 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Eitan:

You claim not to play semantic games and then in the same breath play some more.

"The modern-day "Palestinians" claim that all of modern-day Israel belongs to them."

Gross over-simplification: the Palestinians aren't a monolithic bloc (I think that's abundantly clear). There are extremists on their side that want to replace Israel with an Islamic republic, just as there are "Madzes" on your side. Neither make up anything near a majority (thank G-d). What the majority of Palestinians want is more or less what they would have obtained in the first place had they accepted partition. If that had been the case we wouldn't be sat here talking about the legitimacy of their claim or whether they exist or not. A Palestinian state would then have become a reality and all this pseudo-historical claptrap you've been fed would never have had to be invented.

"My point is this: the "Palestinians" try to get legitimacy by being dubbed "Palestinian" instead of Bedouin or hottentots as you wisely suggest;) This legitimacy stems from what you just said: that this land was given the name "Palestine" coming from the ancient term "Phaleshet" (where the Phillistines in term got their name from), following the Roman conquest of Judea."

Here you go again: using etymology to try and deny the existence of a people.

I'm not really one for playing the "quote game" but as I'm sure you would not read not a single book I might recommend on early Zionist and 18 - 19 th century Palestinian history, perhaps a few quotes from a famous Israeli military commander will at least get you thinking a bit:

Moshe Dayan:

". . . Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.

***

"Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist, not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushu'a in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not one single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population."

***

"There is no more Palestine. Finished . . ."


And from one of David Zarnett's essays (sadly deleted together with all of his blog):

"During the early twentieth century, the ‘Arab Question’, although pressing and central for some, was only a secondary priority for most in the Zionist movement. The propagation of a Jewish national consciousness, raising funds, purchasing land, facilitating Jewish immigration to Palestine, reaching a deal with Ottoman and European authorities, and securing the Jewish presence in a hostile environment were issues that took up the majority of the deliberations and literature. Today the ‘Arab Question’ revolves around the place of the Arab minority in Jewish-Zionist society but a century earlier the debate revolved around the question of to what extent would the Arab presence in Palestine block the Zionist movement from achieving their ends. This is the result of the fact that the most fundamental Zionist goal of creating a Jewish home in Palestine had not yet been achieved. One hundred years ago that basic objective resembled at worst a pipe dream and at best a long-term goal, and therefore the ‘Arab Question’ had a much different focus."

From Yehoshua Porath:

"Jews, and Zionists especially, developed their own myths about Palestine. First they interpreted ancient Jewish history according to the ideology of modern nationalism, equating the old Israelite and Judean kingdoms with modern nation-states. The Maccabean revolt and the period of Hasmonean rule were seen as typical manifestations of the struggle for modern national liberation. During the years when most Jews lived in exile, it was argued, they always kept a separate national identity: they never converted of their free will to another religion, and they preserved the memory of their ancestral land, to which they always hoped to return. Indeed, against all odds, some never left.

Special emphasis was put on this last group. Every bit of evidence that could be found, however trivial it may have been, was used to prove the continuity of the Jewish presence in Eretz Israel and to show that it was central to the life of Jews in exile. Very little was said of the Muslims who meanwhile had become the great majority of the population and the masters of the land. The Zionists argued that Jewish identity and the yearning to return to Palestine were strengthened by the persecutions of the Jews in all parts of the world, including the Islamic and Arab countries.

The return itself was mainly perceived as a matter of Jewish resolve to establish a homeland, which required struggle against Palestine's foreign rulers—the Ottoman Empire first, and then the British Mandate. The Arab population was not presented as a major obstacle since, it was said, it was so small. Palestine during the late Ottoman and early British periods was portrayed as a barren land, hardly inhabited, whose tiny Arab population consisted mostly of wandering Bedouin tribes whose presence was only temporary.

According to the Zionist myth, only modern Jewish colonization brought about the economic development of Palestine and improved the hard conditions there. These developments, it was said, attracted poor Arabs from the stagnant neighboring countries. Their numbers grew faster than the Jewish immigrants because the malicious British authorities always encouraged them to come and did much to help to absorb them, both economically and legally.

The 1948 war, the Jewish argument continues, erupted because the Arabs rejected the UN partition plan although it offered them much more land than they deserved. And since most of the Palestinian Arabs were in fact aliens, they quickly left the country to return to their permanent homelands. Only the persistent refusal of the rulers of the Arab countries prevented them from being absorbed there. The Jewish refugees from the Arab countries were, on the other hand, cared for and rehabilitated. The result was an "exchange of populations" which should have been confirmed in a political agreement; only Arab intransigence has kept this from taking place.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Both the Arab and the Jewish myths I have described have circulated widely for years. Nothing in either of them is new or revolutionary. The more extreme you were in your Zionist beliefs the more thoroughly you propagated the Jewish mythology. What is surprising is that Joan Peters still writes as if the Zionist myths were wholly true and relevant, notwithstanding all the historical work that modifies or discredits them. The surprise is even greater when one considers her claim to have done original research in the historical archives and even to have discovered "overlooked 'secret' (British) correspondence files" in the Public Record Office in London, among other sources of "neglected" information. Indeed, by looking for the "right" evidence and by reading documents selectively one can "prove" virtually anything. But substituting Jewish-Zionist myths for Arab ones will not do. Neither historiography nor the Zionist cause itself gains anything from mythologizing history."


Porath's point of view is particularly interesting because you can find very strong parallels in terms of the development of nationalistic myths in every conflict situation around the world, for all of mankind's (recorded) history.

 
At 3:05 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert: suprise, surprise: I will strike a deal with you(as deals are the talk of the day;) If you undertake to read "Battleground: Fact & Fantasy in Palestine" by Samuel Katz, I'm willing to read any book you offer up. Please inform me, whether through blog or email if we have a deal.

 
At 3:14 PM, Blogger Gert said...

Okay, we'll hammer something out in private and perhaps I'll even post something on the challenge. Howzat?

 
At 5:22 PM, Blogger Eitan Ha'ahzari said...

Gert,

Ok, looks like we have a deal...

 

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