Monday, September 26, 2011

The Palestinian Re-Write of History

One of the things that I find most appalling about I-P discourse... among the very many things that I do find appalling about I-P discourse... is the rewriting of history. Advocates for the Palestinian position, that the Jews must be robbed of self-determination and self-defense as a matter of social justice, often resort to the re-writing of history in order to better position the Palestinians in their conflict with the Jews.

This is done in a myriad of ways and has been ongoing at least since Arafat told a slack-jawed Bill Clinton that Solomon's temple was never in Jerusalem, but here, there, or elsewhere somewhere within the Arab world, probably Iraq. Since that time we've been told that Jews have no historical connection to ancient Jewish land, this despite the sciences of anthropology and archeology which tend, for some crazy reason, to disagree with Mahmoud Abbas despite his PhD dissertation denying the Holocaust.

One of the biggest lies, of course, is that the Palestinians are an ancient people who have lived on that land since time immemorial. Zach of the Huffington Post Monitor gives us a current example in his discussion of Ru Freeman's latest article.

Freeman writes:

The people of Palestine have undergone centuries of external pressure if not always occupation -- from the Israelite, the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Iraqi, Egyptian, Turkish and British forces to name a few -- and history has proved that, when push came to shove, the Palestinian voice was repeatedly silenced. Nobody asked them for their thoughts when Theodor Hertzl advocated for a Jewish State...

And Zach responds:

Quick question. Who exactly does Ms. Freeman think "the Palestinians" are? Is she not aware that they are the descendants of the Arab armies who invaded in the 700s? Because they are, and will proudly tell you of their brotherhood with their fellow Arabs. So as usual it is ironic that she says the Israelites "occupied Palestine" before it even was Palestine, and therefore occupied the Palestinian Arabs, even though there were no Palestinian Arabs there to occupy. Her writing indicates a level of ignorance or a level of dishonesty that is unusual even by Huffington Post standards.

Unfortunately, this level of ignorance or dishonesty is all too common in I-P discourse as a whole. In fact, one cannot even discuss the history of the Palestinian people with anything like honesty because to do so immediately places one in opposition to Political Correctness and the multicultural ideal which insists that politics must trump historical fact.

Here is an historical fact. The Palestinians did not even become the Palestinians until somewhere between the last third and the last quarter of the last century.

This is one of those little facts that no one is supposed to acknowledge. The truth is that from the end of the nineteenth century through until 1948 the "Palestinians" referred to the Jews of Palestine, not the Arabs. The Arabs in fact rejected that term precisely because it did refer to the Jews. It was not until the 1960s that the Arabs of that area began in large numbers to call themselves "Palestinians."

The Palestinians did not emerge as a coherent group until Yassir Arafat conjured them up in the middle of the 1960s. Before that they were simply the local Arab population. Some of their ancestors came from the area around Israel, but many of their ancestors came from all over the Arab world. We know that there were high rates of Arab immigration into Palestine throughout the early part of the twentieth century because Jewish industriousness provided employment.

From all over the Arab world they came. From Egypt and Syria and Jordan and Iraq. Just as many Jews immigrated into Palestine from both Europe and other parts of the Middle East, so Arabs from throughout the region migrated toward the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. And what that means is that only an unknown percentage of Palestinians are actually descended from people who lived in the region during earlier periods.

This is an historical fact and, yet, it is entirely taboo to discuss.

Understand, of course, that I am not claiming that the Palestinians are not a people. Palestinian nationality, like most nationalities, was born from conflict. It was out of the Arab ambition to reinstate subjugation of the Jews as dhimmis, and through our new-found willingness to defend ourselves, that the Palestinian people were born as "Palestinians."

That they are Palestinian now should not be in doubt.

But let us not lie about the history, here. The Arabs of what was the British mandate have formed themselves a national identity. Sure, it's a brand-spanking-new national identity, but a national identity it is.

But when their leadership tells us that the Palestinians have been living on that land for seven thousand years or nine thousand years or millions upon millions of years making them "the master's of history" we are under no obligation to condescend to such laughable nonsense.

Nor should we.


  1. The Palestinians get a lot of help with it. eg

    "The Los Angeles Times has converted Judah Ben-Hur, the fictional enslaved Jewish nobleman who serves as a protagonist in Charles Heston's 1951 Hollywood blockbuster, into a "Palestinian nobleman." Today's paper reports:

    Based on the novel by Lew Wallace, the period drama revolves around Judah Ben-Hur (Heston), a Palestinian nobleman who is enslaved by the Romans, engages in one of the most thrilling chariot races ever captured on screen, and even encounters Jesus Christ."

    Like Bibi said at the couldn't make this stuff up.

  2. The Palestinians are the New Jews and for many "progressives" we are the New Nazis in some kind of crazed cosmic apocalyptic drama which they have invented for themselves at our expense.

  3. Karma,

    I say this as a friend: you can make many of your points, indeed, you can make them just as well, without distorting history.

    Conquering armies came and went. Many Muslims from Arabia settled into what is today Palestine and mixed with the population already there. Indeed, many living in Palestine converted to Islam. But there is really no way of knowing just how many settled there after the Arab conquests and how many converted. Not to mention the presence of local Christians for centuries. It was, indeed, the Islamic armies that, once they captured Jerusalem, allowed Jews to resettle there and worship there.

    The point of all of this is that if you emphasize only certain historical trends and magnify them (for example, the "large scale Arab immigration due to Jewish industry"--in fact it was not that large scale), you deligitimize yourself. You don't give an accurate or nuanced portrayal of identity either. Certainly the Palestinian nationalist movement is fairly new, historically speaking, but Palestinians are not. They were not organized as a national movement until recently, but it doesn't mean they were not there when Jews began arriving by the thousands from Europe. And anyway, as you know, Zionism is a modern nationalist movement as well, and it doesn't detract from Jewish claims at all. I find the entire idea of argument--that Palestinians are somehow not native to the land, to be the ugly reverse of what many try to claim about Jews.

    Not only is it ugly, but it's historically inaccurate. You simply have to pick up a history book to know this.

  4. The bottom line is that the majority of Palestinians did not start self-identifying as Palestinians until the end of the 20th century.

    Are you actually denying that fact and, if so, I would ask that you point to any Palestinian leader prior to Arafat who called himself a Palestinian.

    The Mufti certainly did not.

  5. Also, it is historically accurate to suggest, as I did, that we do not know what percentage of Palestinians are descended from people who came from elsewhere.

  6. They were not organized as a national movement until recently, but it doesn't mean they were not there when Jews began arriving by the thousands from Europe.

    The people that were there when Jews from Europe began arriving did not refer to themselves as Palestinians. They did not think of themselves as Palestinians.

    They were Arabs and they were Muslims and they were out of this or that family or tribe, but they did not self-identify as "Palestinians."

    That is an historical fact.

  7. "The people that were there when Jews from Europe began arriving did not refer to themselves as Palestinians. They did not think of themselves as Palestinians."

    What's your point? This is not entirely true and you're confusing the issue. Certainly Muslim or Christian or Jewish was the preferred mode of identification for people who inhabited the land that was called Palestine for centuries. But it makes no sense to talk about modern nationalism in a context when nationalism did not exist. There were no nationalist movements in the Middle East until the late 19th century, and most nationalist movements did not crystallize until the mid-20th century. So would you say that Egyptians, whose modern nationalist movement was an entirely 20th century movement, should not be called Egyptian? Or that the Lebanese of today, who are fiercely nationalist, are somehow less legitimate because their own nationalist movement is recent? They're still Lebanese, and they still claim ancestry on the land they live on.

    It's no less true for Palestinians. There may not have been a Palestinian nationalist movement until the mid 29th century, but that certainly does not mean that there were no Palestinians. They were certainly FROM Palestine, even if their nationalist movement developed in the 20th century, at the same time, I would add as the Jewish nationalist movement developed. Becaue, you know, there were no ISRAELIS until 1948. Your line of argument is sloppy, Karma.

  8. You know Karma, I have to agree with this anonymous guy. They may not have had a name, but they were a people, and it had to have predated 1949. How do I know this? Because after the war they were not, for the most part, invited to assimilate into Jordanian culture or Egyptian culture or Syrian or Lebanese culture. They WERE different. And that probably predates the war by generations. Whether they had a name or not. And now, 60 years later, as you point out, it doesn't matter. Today they are a people.

    That said, I whole-heartedly agree that facts matter. (as i argued with wu ming recently) It annoys me greatly when the argument is made that the Palestinians have occupied that land for centuries. Even thousands of years. (Someone once argued on dk that their ancestors were the Philistines.) But 50 or 100 or 200 years really doesn't matter. Anymore that it matters that Kwanzaa is a new holiday. They weren't invented by Arafat or al-Husseini.