OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Demythologizing the mystic belief in Palestinianism

We need to illustrate its artificial construction. It is an emperor with no clothes.

An image of a release certificate from the british Mandate Police in 1948, at the Police Heritage Centerin Beit Shemesh, on February 8, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
An image of a release certificate from the british Mandate Police in 1948, at the Police Heritage Centerin Beit Shemesh, on February 8, 2018. Photo by Hadas Parush/Flash90.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

At this moment in time, a moment that has been developing over the past few decades, there is a general agreement—and we can mourn it out of our deep disappointment—that there exists a country called “Palestine” and a people called “Palestinians.” It is almost axiomatic for politicians, diplomats, human-rights workers, liberals, progressives, academia and many of today’s younger generation to believe in those elements. They see a Palestinianism triumphant.

That little is rational and factual in that belief is, perhaps, frustrating but it is the reality. Yet reality can be changed and the reasons for it being claimed as a reality can be denied. We can bring about a new reality. We, too, are all part of this generation. We can right what has gone wrong.

The Danish theologian and philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, some 180 years ago, wrote of a generation that “desired to level and to be emancipated, to destroy authority and … started the hopeless forest fire of abstraction.” He wrote of individuals who must work for themselves, no matter how confused or dizzy, as he put it, engaged in a “short-sighted compassion.” Following his challenge to overcome the abyss, the time has come to make a leap—not one of faith as much as one of fact.

There is a need, as Kierkegaard phrased it, even a requirement, to “plunge confidently into the absurd,” the absurdity that is Palestinianism and to demythologize it. We have a duty to highlight its absurdities, stress its untruths and emphasize its irrationality. We need to illustrate its artificial construction. It is an emperor with no clothes.

What follows is a pilot exercise. It is a concise summary of several of the asserted myths deconstructed. Perhaps a pedagogical team can turn it into a proper educational tool.

Palestine: The name “Palestine” for the country originated following the subjugation of the Jewish second revolt against the Romans in 135 C.E. when Emperor Hadrian attempted to quash any further military actions by the Jews but Jewish nationhood and statehood as well. While “Palaistine Syria” is found in Herodotus, it referred to the coastal plain from today’s Lebanon into the Sinai Desert, a region but not a defined country. It was known in ancient times as Judaea. The Romans called it by that name, including in their victory coins, “Ivdea Capta,” struck in 71 C.E. For Arabs, the area was Bilad Al-Sham; eventually, the Latin was transliterated as Filastin.

Palestinian territory: Palestine as a defined geo-political entity never existed in history. Between 1922 and 1948, however, the country existed as the Mandate for Palestine with the express purpose of reconstituting it as the historic Jewish national home. A newly created second entity, “between the Jordan [River] and the eastern boundary of Palestine as ultimately determined,” was separated from the historic region of Palestine and termed Transjordan. It was awarded to the Saudi Arabian Abdullah ibn Hussein.

Palestinian national identity: The 1919 Arab Congress meeting in Jerusalem resolved: “We consider Palestine nothing but part of Arab Syria and it has never been separated from it at any stage. We are tied to it by national, religious, linguistic, moral, economic and geographic bounds. … Our district Southern Syria or Palestine should be not separated from the Independent Arab Syrian Government.” The 1919 King-Crane Commission was petitioned by local Arabs to keep Palestine as part of Syria and recommended that “there would then [if making Palestine distinctly a Jewish commonwealth would be given up] be no reason why Palestine could not be included in a united Syrian State.” The idea of Palestine as Southern Syria continued all through the 1920s.

Moreover, attempts to pinpoint the development of a Palestine identity flounder between 1834—when local Arabs rebelled against Ibrahim Pasha’s occupation—and 1908 when the first anti-Zionist journal was published by a Christian Arab resident of Jaffa. Throughout history, a people of self-consciousness exist and create a language, a national territory and a culture. For the so-called Palestinian people, all of this happened backwards.

Palestinian history: Depending on your source, “Palestinians” are a very ancient people but their origin is influenced by an effort of nation-building and solidifying their presumed national consciousness. Saeb Erekat informed Tzipi Livni in February 2014: “I am 10,000 years old … the proud [Jericho] son of the Netufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there for 5,500 years before Joshua Bin Nun came and burned my hometown.” Additional claims of origin include Canaanites, Phoenicians, Jebusites and others.

What is undeniable is that the first mass presence of Arabs in Judea as a collective, rather than occasional traders, was in 638 C.E. when the Arab army conquered Jerusalem. Moreover, the term “Arab,” as found in early 800 BCE in Assyrian texts, referred only to inhabitants of the deserts of Arabia and not the Judea and Samaria hill country. All this is but an effort to assert a pre-Israelite existence in the Land of Israel. They are persons pretending to be a people, what is known as “Pretendians,” as was the Canadian woman who recently fraudulently claimed that her daughters were Inuit and was sentenced to three years in jail.

Palestinian refugees: U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 1948 does not refer to a “right of return.” The text states that “Palestine refugees,” both Arab and Jewish, “should be permitted” to return to their homes at the “earliest practicable date” and this recommendation applies only to those “wishing to … live at peace with their neighbors.” At that time, the number of refugees was approximated at 500,000 as per resolution 212 (III) of November 19 and not 5.9 million as is claimed at present. Moreover, they were “Palestine refugees” and not “Palestinian refugees.” Incidentally, the six Arab League countries then represented at the United Nations voted against the resolution.

In 1952, the United Nations defined refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948.” So, only two years of residency is required to prove a national identity? Many tens of thousands of Arabs from surrounding countries had immigrated to British Mandatory Palestine during World War II due to the economic advantages, yet they still became “Palestine refugees.”

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967 does not mention “Palestine” or “Palestinians,” only a “refugee problem.” It was only in 1969 that the United Nations adopted language such as the “inalienable rights of the people of Palestine” as well as the “Palestine Arab refugees.”

The contemporary Palestinian national movement thrives due to its unquestionable ability to mobilize and enthuse the masses. Those who rally have been affected by an ideological reorientation furthered by academics predicated on a neo-Marxist paradigm. Their spurious claims are hollow and a campaign to take back the narrative is urgent.

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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