Between 1936 and 1939 the Arabs of the British Mandate of Jerusalem went on a rampage that became known as the “Arab revolt.” The Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini, cried to the heavens that the Jews were destroying the al-Aqsa Mosque and agitated his easily agitated people into bloody rampages that lasted for years. The British, seeking to calm the situation, initiated the Peel Commission which recommended a division of the land between Arabs and Jews in order to ease tensions and create peace between the vast Arab majority and the tiny Jewish minority in the Middle East.
There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it.
What are we to make of the fact that it is only within living memory that the Arabs of that small portion of the world fashioned themselves as a distinct ethnicity or nationality known as “Palestinians”? They did so, with the encouragement of Yassir Arafat and the Soviets, for the purpose of contesting Jewish claims to Jewish land after the establishment of Israel. The majority of Arabs in the region only took on “Palestinian” identity after the the 6 Day War of 1967, appropriating it from the Jews.
It has to be understood that all national identities start somewhere in time and place. “American” identity, which is to say the identity of people who live in, or are citizens of, what is now the United States, emerged toward the end of the 18th century and did not completely solidify until after the Civil War. Jewish identity, of course, is well over 3,000 years old, which makes the Jewish people one of the oldest surviving nationalities, along with the Chinese, on the planet today.
So-called “Palestinian” national identity only gained credence shortly after I was born.
Prior to that the people who now call themselves “Palestinian” thought of themselves as Arabs and as Muslims from this or that particular family, tribe, or clan. Palestine was merely a region within Syria which, itself, was part of the Ottoman empire. Prior to 1967 virtually no one claimed “Palestinian” national identity any more than people from Connecticut – let’s call them Connecticutians – think of themselves as a distinct and separate nation or people. And like Connecticutians, most “Palestinians” were from elsewhere. A certain percentage of people who call themselves “Palestinian” have immediate roots within Israel, but very many also have roots in Egypt and Syria and Jordan and Lebanon and Iraq and ultimately, of course, to Saudi Arabia.
Throughout the early part of the twentieth-century the Jews thought of themselves as “Palestinian,” but it was not considered a national identity. The Jews of the British Mandate of Palestine were “Palestinian” in a way not entirely dissimilar from the way that the Jews of California, such as myself, consider themselves to be “Californian.”
The fact of the matter is that the emergence of a distinct Arab nation known as “Palestinian,” toward the end of the twentieth century was not organic, but political and its entire purpose was (and is) to steal the tiny Jewish homeland from the besieged Jewish people of the Middle East. The essence of “Palestinian” national identity is to represent themselves as a hostile and persecuted doppelganger to the indigenous Jewish population in order to steal Jewish identity for the purpose of undermining Jewish claims to Jewish land.
The evidence for this is widespread.
How else to account for the fact that Yassir Arafat, much to Bill Clinton’s astonishment, denied the historical presence of the Jewish temples in Jerusalem?
How else to account for the fact that the local Arab leadership often refers to Jesus – who was, quite obviously, a Jew – as the first “Palestinian shaheed”?
How else to account for the fact that many local Arabs and their allies throughout the west enjoy pretending that the local Arabs are the “New Jews” and the Jews are the “New Nazis,” for the purpose of creating a politically useful historical inversion?
How else to account for the fact that they, and their allies, like to put Anne Frank in a keffiyah?
This is a very under-discussed phenomenon, but I believe that it represents a key to the conflict as it is unfolding today.
One of the biggest mistakes that Israel made was acknowledging “Palestinian” as a separate and distinct Arab national identity with claims to Jewish land. Not only is such a claim useful in clubbing the native Jewish population and whipping up hatred toward them throughout the world, but it is also entirely false from an historical perspective. The Jewish people can never be free from Arab-Muslim persecution until “Palestinian” national identity is denied as the fraud that it quite obviously is.
But even more egregious than that is the Palestinian-Arab attempt at Jewish identity theft.
This is an exceedingly dangerous and insidious phenomenon that is in great need of further exploration.
Ignoring it is a crucial mistake.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.