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A Mid-East Fiction By: David Solway
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 03, 2008


The feral antipathy towards Israel, the concerted bid to leverage it out of the community of nations, accounts for the obstinate reluctance on the part of Western academics, intellectuals, professionals, churchmen and journalists to examine the true history of the region, which would expose the Palestinian claim to plenary proprietorship as largely fraudulent while buttressing the Jewish and Israeli title to rightful occupancy. As Joan Peters has shown in her scrupulously researched seven-year study From Time Immemorial, examining census reports and internal memoranda during the British Mandate, perhaps a majority of the “original” Palestinian inhabitants were relative newcomers to the territory in question, having migrated into the Holy Land from the surrounding Arab countries, mainly from what was then known as Greater Syria (i.e., Syria and Lebanon) when still part of the Ottoman empire, and afterward during the post-Balfour period.

Analogously, the Reverend James Parkes, in Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine, has built a powerful case for the Jewish, not the Palestinian, hereditament. His thesis has been recently strengthened by genetic research which has corroborated the provenance of Jews from the Middle East, basing its conclusions on the recently discovered DNA signature, called the Cohen Modal Haplotype, pointing toward a common ancestor dating back to the time of Aaron and Moses, circa 1000 B.C.E. (See also, among many such studies, the American Journal of Human Genetics, 2003, treating of Y-chromosome evidence for the origin of Ashkenazi Levites.)

As for the national collectivity we refer to as “Palestine,” it does not exist. There is, rather, a phenomenon we may call “Palestinianism,” a historically recent political movement rooted in hatred of Israel, palpable anti-Semitism, constructed memory and the Islamic summons to territorial conquest. No settlement in the land of Israel, with the possible exception of Ramla, has a name that indicates Arab extraction—they are mostly of Hebrew origin with a sprinkling of Greek and Latin, covered up at a later time with Arab appellations. There was not even a Palestinian national anthem until one was hastily dreamed up at the onset of the 1987 Intifada. In an Internet letter posted on November 6, 2002, Yashiko Sagamori asks “a few basic questions” about this imaginary Palestinian country: inter alia, “When was it founded and by whom? What were its borders? What was its form of government? Was Palestine ever recognized by [another] country? What was the name of its currency? And finally, since there is no such country today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?”

The historical record conclusively shows not only that there was never any such thing as a Palestinian nation but also that there is no Palestinian ethnicity—in the sense that there is a Jewish or Tibetan ethnicity—and that there was no coherent political grouping known as “Palestinians” until after the 1967 war. A Palestinian entity was only recognized by the Arab countries at the 1974 Rabat Summit Conference. (Although the Palestinian Liberation Organization was founded in 1964, it was largely an Egyptian affair controlled by Gamel Abdel Nasser.) 1967 is the founding year of the hypothesis now known as “Palestine.” What we call “Palestinian history” has just celebrated its forty-first birthday!

The designation “Palestinians” was not in official use under the Ottoman imperium and the British applied the term only to the Jewish inhabitants of the region. Local Arabs rejected the term “Palestine” and pressed for “Southern Syria” and even “Iraq.” Eli Hertz, president of Myths and Facts Inc., points out that the Territories “are filled with families named Elmisri (Egyptian), Chalabi (Syrian), Mugrabi (North Africa)”; and Habash, the surname of arch-terrorist George Habash, originates in Ethiopia (MythsandFacts.com, May 16, 2008). Unlike the original Jewish inhabitants of the area, these emigrant families were not driven out over the historical continuum—they were never there in the first place.

Dafna Yee, director of the JWD website, also explains that since “the borders of the Palestine territory were never clearly defined, it is safe to assume that a great many, if not most, of the ‘Palestinians’ never set foot in any part of what is now Israel and have as flimsy a claim to that identity as Arafat did”—Arafat was born in Egypt. She might also have mentioned Edward Said, another self-proclaimed Palestinian, who did in fact set foot in what is now Israel—he was born in a Jerusalem hospital where his parents calculated that the probability of a safe delivery was higher than in an Arab hospital, and was subsequently raised in Cairo where he spent the first twelve years of his life before moving to the West. With regard to Israel, fictions tend to multiply exponentially. In particular, that Israel was built on something called “Palestinian land” through a process of invasion and displacement is a myth that continues to gather momentum. On the contrary, Israel is not only the ancient Jewish homeland, but in modern times it was founded as nation by legal land purchases and legitimized by the United Nations.

Undeterred, Palestinian human rights activists continue to propound a bald-faced lie. For example, Susan Abulhawa, author of the novel The Scar of David, asserted in an article for the Paris magazine Libèration (March 18, 2008) that Israel was established on “the ancient land of Palestine,” a historical artifice created on the instant. The reader will look in vain in Abulhawa’s piece for any mention of the fact that between 1932 and 1944 half a million Arabs poured into Palestine to profit from conditions prevailing in the Jewish communities. That she claims in the same article that “Jesus was Palestinian,” in direct contravention of the Christian Gospels, may tell us something about the Palestinian style of argument. The Palestinian “narrative” is a synthetic athenaeum whose textual repertory is, for the most part, either forged or imagined. Palestinians fall back on what is by now a classic maneuver: the attempt to achieve unity and manufacture purpose by the denial of fact. But the fact is that the “Palestinian entity” as such is non-historical and would more accurately be defined as a Palestinian nonentity, its documentary grounding largely fabricated and its political aspirations dependent on a volatile mix of ignorance and deception.

In How to Do things with Words, Philosopher J.L. Austin has made a useful distinction between two kinds of speech acts, the referential and the constative. The referential delineates an actual state of affairs, the constative establishes not a quality but a social function. Austin offers an analogy from baseball: the ball may travel across the center of the plate, a perfect strike, but if the umpire calls “ball,” that’s how it registers on the scoreboard and operates in the game. For much of the world today, umpires (and crowds) engaged in the production of their own referents and bent on the reconstruction of reality, an Israeli “strike” will almost always count as a “ball.” The referential has been reconfigured as the constative, despite what a later replay may bring to light—the Gaza beach hoax, the Lebanese ambulance hoax, the al-Durah hoax, and so on. When it comes to Israel, the constative will almost always trump the referential and a collective assessment obliterate an objective factor. The Israeli pitcher throws a strike; the Arab batter receives a base on balls. An intimate congruence has been performatively created between the report and the referent minus the slightest hint of the semantic distance that stretches between the two. The former remains parasitic upon the latter.

Archeologist and historian David Meir-Levy makes this clear in his new book, with its Austinesque title History Upside Down: The Roots of Palestinian Fascism and the Myth of Israeli Aggression, in which he tries to dig up the buried facts and return to the referential. He points out that “the Arabs of the area had their own designation for the region: Balad esh-Sham (the country, or province of Damascus.)” It was only after the 1967 war that the PLO reframed the issue by “inventing a ‘historic Palestine’ ex nihilo, an ancient ‘Palestinian people’ who had lived in their ‘homeland’ from ‘time immemorial’ [and] who were forced from their homeland by the Zionists…” The idea of a Palestinian nation was hatched, principally by Yasser Arafat, “for political purposes and to justify and legitimize terrorism and genocide.” Arafat himself did not disguise his intentions. In his own words, the aim of the PLO was “not to impose our will on [Israel], but to destroy it in order to take its place.” Further, no Palestinian leader, neither Arafat nor Abbas nor any of their chief negotiators, have acknowledged that there are no 1967 borders to which Israel is required to return. In fact, there are only armistice lines, and the Jordanian peace agreement with Israel specified that these armistice lines would have no bearing on future negotiations to determine final borders.

In this context, it is obvious that the propaganda war against Israel, joined by many in the West, is an indispensable part of the violent campaign to erase the country from the map. The strategy at work in all these instances of malfeasance is obvious: if the lie about Israel is repeated often enough, it will eventually be accepted as truth. Strike three will be called as ball four. The effectiveness of this strategy is borne out by the findings of a BBC global survey, released in March 2007, which skewers Israel as the most negatively-viewed country in the world and shows how successful the BBC and the like-minded media have been in pursuing their hatchet job on the Jewish state.

This clandestine design has penetrated into the domain of presumably objective scholarship as well. The prestigious Macmillan Reference USA encyclopedia contains an entry on anti-Semitism culled in part from a controversial article in the journal Race Traitor, authored by the anti-Zionist Jew Noel Ignatiev. The brunt of the article makes Jews themselves responsible for anti-Semitism, which brings the rationale for the creation of the Jewish state into question. Cognitive distortion is the name of the game. As Aldous Huxley has one of his characters reflect in Brave New World, suggesting the famous dicta of Hitler and Goebbels about the reiterative efficacy of the “Big Lie,” “Sixty-two thousand four hundred repetitions make one truth. Idiots!”


David Solway is the award-winning author of over twenty-five books of poetry, criticism, educational theory, and travel. He is a contributor to magazines as varied as the Atlantic, the Sewanee Review, Books in Canada, and the Partisan Review. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity. A new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, will be released by CanadianValuesPress this fall.


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