Five mendacious myths of one false narrative

The entire edifice of “Palestinian” national aspirations is a giant political hoax—a massive sleight of political hand designed to serve a more sinister ulterior motive. Five points explain why that is.

Palestinians in Ramallah wave their national flags and a picture of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas while they watch a live-screening of Abbas's speech at the United Nations, Sept. 30, 2015. Photo by Flash90.
Palestinians in Ramallah wave their national flags and a picture of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas while they watch a live-screening of Abbas's speech at the United Nations, Sept. 30, 2015. Photo by Flash90.
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman
Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Project.

Of all the Palestinian lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank. … Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits … – Professor Amnon Rubinstein, formerly education minister, member of the far-left Meretz faction and dean of Tel Aviv University’s law faculty, “Palestinian Lies,” Haaretz, July 30, 1976

Telling the truth about the Israeli–Palestinian conflict would affirm American support for international law, democracy, the peaceful resolution of international disputes, and the principle of equal rights for all peoples … [as well as] American opposition to aggression and terrorism– Professor Michael Mandelbaum, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, “The Peace Process Is an Obstacle to Peace,” Commentary, April 14, 2016 

I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so … I think it’s a colonialist invention—a Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? – Balad Party founder Azmi Bishara, Channel 2, 1996

In the past (see for example The Political Algorithms of the Arab-Israeli Conflict), I have shown how, in stark contrast to conventional wisdom, Israel’s acceptance of the legitimacy of Palestinian national claims has in effect laid the foundations for the assault on its own legitimacy.

In other words, Israel’s attribution of legitimacy to the Palestinian narrative (and hence, to the aspirations arising from it such as statehood) necessarily culminate in stripping the Zionist narrative of its legitimacy, by delegitimizing the measures required to sustain the Jewish nation-state.

Consequently, the inescapable conclusion is that the only way to attain legitimacy for measures required to sustain the Jewish state is to delegitimize the Palestinian narrative according to which Palestinian-Arabs comprise an authentic, identifiably distinct national entity, entitled to all the rights accorded other such entities.

This is of course a daunting challenge. After all, any endeavor to discredit, disprove and ultimately delegitimize a narrative that, due to decades of distortion, deception and delusion has become entrenched in the collective international psyche as the received wisdom regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, is likely to be a Herculean task. However, the immense scale of the task cannot diminish the imperative of its implementation.

A massive sleight of political hand

While no consensus exists among political scientists as to an exact definition of “nation” and “nationalism,” there is broad agreement over what cannot be excluded from such definition. Thus, whatever other details different scholars might wish to include in their preferred definition, there is little disagreement that:

• A “nation” is an identifiably differentiated segment of humanity exhibiting collective desire to exercise political sovereignty in a defined geographical territory; and

• “Nationalism” is the pursuit, by those identifiably differentiated segments of humanity, of the exercise of political sovereignty in a defined territory.

Even a cursory analysis of historical events in this region will reveal that, in the case of Palestinians-Arabs, neither of these constituent elements exists: Neither an identifiably differentiated people, desiring exercise of political sovereignty; nor a defined territory in which that sovereignty is to be exercised.

One need only examine the declarations and documents of Palestinians themselves to verify this, and discover that they have never really conceived of themselves as a discernibly discrete people with a defined homeland.

Accordingly, little effort is required to demonstrate that the Palestinian “narrative”—the ideo-intellectual fuel driving the demands for statehood—is nothing more than a motley mixture of multiple myths, easily identifiable and readily refutable. The inescapable conclusion is, or should be, that the entire edifice of Palestinian national aspirations is a giant political hoax, a massive sleight of political hand designed to serve a more sinister and thinly disguised ulterior motive.

There are the five constituent myths that comprise the noxious concoction of the Palestinian narrative.

The myth of Palestinian homeland

The first—and arguably, the most startling—is that of a Palestinian “homeland,” now designated as “the West Bank” (Judea-Samaria) and Gaza. For not only did the “Palestinians” never claim this as their historical homeland, they explicitly eschewed any claims to sovereignty over it until well after it fell under Israeli control in 1967.

Thus, Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National Covenant sets out the alleged desire of the people of Palestine “who look forward to … restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty … ”

However, since the covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward … to exercise national sovereignty”?

Significantly, in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty,” explicitly proclaiming that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan … [or] the Gaza Strip … ”

From this we learn two stunning facts: Not only did the “Palestinians” not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland, but they expressly excluded them from it. Moreover they unequivocally acknowledged that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom.

The myth of a Palestinian homeland (revised version)

There is, therefore, not the slightest resemblance—indeed, not one square inch of overlap—between the territory claimed by the “Palestinians” as their “homeland” when they first allegedly formulated their national aspirations, and the “homeland” claimed today.

Indeed, the two visions of “homeland” territories are not only inconsistent with each other, but mutually exclusive.

Accordingly it would seem that it is Jewish rule, rather than any “collective historical memory,” that is the determining factor in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland.” This is starkly underlined by the proclamation of Ahmad Shukeiri, Yasser Arafat’s predecessor, on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War: “D Day is approaching. … The Arabs have waited 19 years for this and will not flinch from the war of liberation. … This is a fight for the homeland … ”

Shukeiri’s use of the words “liberation” and “homeland” are revealing. They clearly cannot refer to Judea-Samaria or Gaza, now claimed as the “Palestinian homeland,” since these were then under exclusive Arab control.

Indeed, nothing could better vindicate the contention that the concept of a “Palestinian homeland” is a fabricated construct, conjured up to further the Arab quest to eradicate any trace of a sovereign Jewish homeland.

The myth of Palestinian peoplehood

Senior Palestinian leaders have openly admitted – consistently and continually – that Palestinians are not a discrete people, identifiably different from others in the Arab world. For example on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO’s Political Department, told Newsweek: “ … Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.”

This statement parallels almost exactly the oft cited, and never denied, position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member, Zuheir Muhsin, who declared: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. … It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity … ” (Dutch daily Trouw, March 31, 1977).

Indeed, it was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of a collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered “Arab.” At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he stated: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.

This necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of any independent existence, a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims.

The myth of Palestinian nationhood

But not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not a discrete sociological entity, i.e. a people, they also concede that as a political unit, i.e. a nation, their demands/ aspirations are neither genuine nor permanent.

Indeed, Zuheir Muhsin candidly confesses: We are all part of one [Arab ]nation. … The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

it doesn’t get much more explicit than that—unless you read Azmi Bishara—in the introductory excerpt.

Indeed, the Palestinian-Arabs not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but are merely a temporary instrumental ruse. In their National Covenant they declare: “The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation … [H]owever, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity ... ”

So how are we to avoid concluding that at some later stage there will be no need to preserve their “national identity or develop consciousness thereof”? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is nothing but a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal: annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine” (a.k.a. Israel).

Indeed, what other nation declares that its national identity is merely a temporary ploy to be “safeguarded” and “developed” for the “present stage” alone? Does any other nation view its national identity as so ephemeral and instrumental? The Italians? The Turks? The Japanese? Of course not.

So as King Hussein said: “The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish.” Nothing more.

The myth of Palestinian statelessness

A major theme exploited to evoke great sympathy for the Palestinians’ cause—and commensurate wrath at Israel—is that they are a “stateless” people. But this condition of “statelessness” is not a result of Israeli malfeasance, but of Arab malevolence.

For the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, nor precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desired.

In the “West Bank” for example, until 1988, all Palestinians, including the “refugees,” held Jordanian citizenship. This was then annulled by King Hussein, after relinquishing his claim to this territory. This abrupt measure was described by Anis Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, as follows: “… more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons.”

But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship of their countries of residence in the Arab world, where many have lived for over a half-century.

Thus, the Arab League has instructed members to deny citizenship to resident Palestinian-Arabs “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland.” Thus, Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef, in an 2004 Los Angeles Times interview, reiterated that this official policy was meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity,” which was apparently incapable of independent existence without external coercion.

He went on to assert that “if every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.


The myth of Palestinian refugees

Much has been written elsewhere on the anomaly of the Palestinian refugees. I will, therefore, confine the discussion to two short but edifying references.

While all other refugees on the face of the globe are under the auspices of the UN High Commission for Refugees, the Palestinian refugees have their own unique organization, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The two organizations have two different definitions of who is a refugee and different mandates as to how they should be treated. These differences have far-reaching consequences, arguably the gravest being that they spectacularly inflate the numbers of Palestinian refugees, from fewer than 50,000 to around 5,000,000.

Thus, in a letter to former U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan (May 18, 2002), the late Tom Lantos, ranking Democrat on the U.S. House International Relations Committee, expressed bewildered disapproval at the prevailing situation: “I am frankly baffled as to why, more than 50 years after the founding of the State of Israel, there continues to exist a U.N. agency focused solely on Palestinian refugees. … No other refugee problem in the world has been treated in this privileged and prolonged manner.”

Over a decade later (Aug. 31, 2014), former Labor Knesset member and ardent two-stater Einat Wilf wrote: “If UNRWA operated the same way as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which is responsible for all other refugee groups in the world, today there would be only tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees, rather than millions. …”

So there you have it—or at least, part of it. Thus, in light of this overly condensed and admittedly incomplete exposé of lies, distortions and exaggerations of the Palestinian claims, what seems more credible? An offer to buy the Brooklyn Bridge or the Palestinian narrative?


Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

You can find more in depth articles on Israel and the Middle East @en.mida.org.il.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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