There’s no doubt that Arabs have lived in the Holy Land for many hundreds of years. You can’t blame them for making claims to some of the land.
Arabs today control about 97 percent of the Middle East, and Palestinian Arabs represent about 70 percent of the population of Israel’s neighbor, Jordan.
The problem is, Palestinian Arabs flatly deny that Jews have also lived in this land—especially that they have dwelled on their tiny sliver of territory continuously for over 3,000 years. This rejection of Jewish history leads Palestinians to nullify the right of Jews to settle there and create their own nation.
In other words, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not about two states—not about sharing real estate in the Holy Land. Rather, Palestinian Arabs claim all of this land—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea—including all of Israel.
What many see as a violent Israel-Palestinian struggle over land, is instead much more a conflict about narratives and legitimacy—about truth.
The Palestinian attempt to negate Jewish history has been going on since the beginning of the conflict. To this day Palestinian leaders still reject widely accepted historical research and archeological artifacts—coins, seals, inscriptions—that prove Jewish history, legitimacy and rights.
These leaders believe if they can disconnect Jewish history from the Land of Israel, they can justify their violent struggle. Their goal is to convince the world that the conflict is about colonialism, “apartheid” or “occupation.”
If they admit the Jews had a civilization on this land 3,000 years ago before Arabs conquered it, their argument falls apart. Obviously, no indigenous people—as the Jews clearly are—can occupy or colonize its own territory.
A recent example of this is the uncovering of a section of Jerusalem’s city wall, built some 2,700 years ago during the First Temple era and mostly destroyed by the Babylonian army in 586 BCE. This finding is another piece of the puzzle, proving not only that Jewish history in the land stretches back millennia, but is also entirely consistent with ancient Jewish sources and religious texts.
Since such an archeological find is devastating to Palestinian mythology, it was no surprise that their reaction came fast. Hamas spokesman Muhammad Hamadeh said, “The aggression of the occupation did not stop at the limits of falsifying history. Rather, it seeks to change the reality. The announcement of these alleged discoveries comes in conjunction with the normalization agreements that gave it an international cover.”
Palestinian leaders have consistently disputed any historic Jewish connection to Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular. In the early 1900s, murderous mass Arab riots against Jews were largely motivated by accusations that Jews were “Judaizing” Jerusalem and other holy sites. These were the rallying calls of Hitler’s friend and colleague, Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini.
This lie continues. Jerusalem expert Nadav Shragai reports, “[Palestinian Authority leader] Mahmoud Abbas’s religious-affairs adviser, Mahmoud al-Habash, asserted that ‘Jewish Jerusalem is a legend’; former Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Ala declared that a gold medallion discovered in an archeological dig at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount, notable for its classic Jewish symbols such as a menorah, a shofar and a Torah scroll, is just a forgery; Adnan al-Husseini, the Palestinian Authority minister for Jerusalem affairs, has stated that ‘Israel has a policy of ‘Judaization’ and ‘fabrication,’ whose aim is to invent a Jewish connection with Jerusalem.”
Abbas has used similar themes as a rallying cry to incite riots on the Temple Mount and its environs. Last year, the P.A. produced a TV filler of Abbas again denying Israel’s history in Jerusalem, saying Palestinians must “confront the [Israeli] plots that are being woven against it to forge its identity and to change its character.”
These assertions create a major problem for the Palestinians—and all who respect the truth. No serious expert, historian or archeologist doubts the historic, indigenous connection of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.
Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming: There is not a spot anywhere in the Holy Land—Israel proper or the disputed territories—that is not replete with irrefutable proof of Jewish history and civilization. Barely a day passes without some new archeological discovery again confirming Jewish roots in this land.
Nonetheless, the delegitimization of Jewish history in Israel serves another Palestinian purpose: It provides Palestinian leadership an excuse to whip its people into a frenzy. This directly leads to violence and bloodshed, as we witnessed recently in Jerusalem and that ultimately led to Hamas’s missile attacks on Israeli civilians.
Official P.A. TV summed up the fabrications about Jewish history in a broadcast in 2015, translated by Palestinian Media Watch: “The story of the Temple is nothing but a collection of legends and myths for political reasons. They [Jews] have set Palestine and Jerusalem as their goal, and have used the myths in the service of their declared goals of occupation and imperialism. In the spirit of the delusions and legends, they try to get rid of the Al-Aqsa [Mosque] and establish their so-called ‘Temple’—the greatest crime and forgery in history.”
Mahmoud Abbas has actively sought to replace Jewish fact and history with fiction. In 2014 he said, “The Israeli occupation authorities are rushing … to erase and remove the Islamic-Christian Arab character of East Jerusalem … continuing their efforts to achieve their final goal of Judaizing Jerusalem.”
In other words, archeological evidence is simply a provocation for the Palestinian leadership to wage war. They need to protect their lies with violence. They know the international community will be distracted from the original sin by images of Israelis and Palestinians fighting.
This creates a win-win for Palestinian leadership. They can continue promoting their myths about Jews’ lack of connection to Israel—against all evidence and fact—hoping to attract sympathy for their colonization, occupation and apartheid myths.
They are also able to achieve a rallying call to mobilize Palestinian masses to violence as a distraction from the truth … and thus gain more sympathy.
This battle for truth goes to the heart of the Israel-Palestinian conflict—because verifiable facts reveal who the occupiers and colonizers are, who came by force and conquest, and who the real indigenous people are … the ones who returned to liberate and resettle their homeland.
James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States.