A large part of the Long Arab War against the Jews of the Middle East is the delegitimization and erasure of Jewish history. In the Arab-Muslim world this delegitimization and erasure is almost entirely complete and it has a significant influence in the way that westerners, including Jewish westerners, discuss the conflict.
The question of language in propaganda should be of central concern to those of us who care about the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Obvious examples of the way that Jewish history is erased include the erasure of the ancient names of Judaea and Samaria from the western lexicon in favor of the recent Jordanian term “West Bank.” Another example is the relatively recent replacement of the word “Palestinian” to refer to Jews from that region with the word “Palestinian” to refer to Arabs. This bit of rhetorical, ahistorical ju-jitzu provides the basis of Arab claims to Jewish land. It is, in fact, part of the effort to simply replace the Jews with the small subsection of local Arabs who now claim to represent an ancient and distinct people persecuted by foreign Jewish invaders.
Interestingly enough, there is no historical record whatsoever of any ancient “Palestinian” people of Arab descent on that land whatsoever. In this way the “Palestinians” become a people with a secret history that they simply make up when it is politically convenient to do so.
The erasing of Jewish history through, for example, denying that contemporary Jews are in anyway related to our ancestors in ancient Israel, or through denying that any Jewish temple ever resided on the Temple Mount, is accompanied by a replacement of Jewish history with the so-called “Palestinian narrative.” Thus, Jesus becomes the “first Palestinian shaheed” (martyr), thereby taking a significant Jewish figure in world history and simply converting him into an Arab-Muslim. Another example is the attempt to appropriate or equate the Holocaust with al-Nakba. The obvious significance of the Nakba story is to suggest that while the Jews may have suffered a Holocaust, the “Palestinians” also suffered a holocaust at the hands of the murderous Jews. They even sometimes use the term “Nakba denial” in order to parallel and create an equivalence to “Holocaust denial” and thereby an equivalence between the Arab efforts to complete the Holocaust directly after World War II and the Holocaust, itself.
This fabrication and distortion of Jewish history, and the effort to replace it with “Palestinian” history, is aided by what historian Richard Landes calls “Pallywood.” Just as the Nazis told lies about the Jewish people in order pave the way for slaughter, and spread those lies on film, so the Palestinian-Arabs tell lies about the Jews in order to justify aggression towards us, an aggression that is thereby further justified by their malicious “progressive” allies in the West. The foremost example of Pallywood is the al-Durrah affair in which a fake interpretation of a video by French “journalists” was spread around the world endeavoring to show murderous Jewish malice toward Palestinian-Arab children. This video, an example of the blood libel, is partly responsible not only for the thousands of dead during the Second Terror War against the Jews at the turn of the millennium, but for the betrayal of the Jewish people by western leftists who went along with the notion of Jewish malice and abuse toward a largely innocent “indigenous” population.
Finally, the most significant aspect of the attempt to rob Jewish people, not only of our security but of our very history, is through the recent social construction of Palestinian national identity. The politically motivated construction of “Palestinian” identity emerged for most local Arabs during the end of the twentieth century solely for the purpose of countering Jewish claims to historically Jewish land. Throughout most of the twentieth-century the term “Palestinian” referred to Jewish people living on that land. The local Arabs only took on the attribution “Palestinian” after the Jews of the region gave up the term in favor Israel.
Israel, of course, represents one of the ancient names for the Jewish people, more generally.
The erasure and confiscation of Jewish history by the so-called “Palestinians” is one of the most insidious tactics in the Long Arab War against the Jews. It is also one of the most effective and least discussed, but it is fully consistent with the history Islam. Islam, unlike Judaism, is an expansionist, imperial religion that throughout its history has consistently replaced non-Muslim holy sites with mosques and retroactively turned significant non-Muslim historical and religious figures, such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, into Muslims.
If we acknowledge that the Jewish minority in the Middle East are a people under siege, and are, in fact, the minority victims of an ongoing Arab-Muslim majority aggression, then we need to acknowledge and discuss the theft of Jewish heritage by that aggressive and hostile majority.
Well-meaning Jewish intellectuals and academics in the West often tend to downplay historical Arab-Muslim aggression against the Jews of the Middle East for the very best reasons. They are, as the late professor Barry Rubin might say, lying for peace, whether they recognize that or not. The hope is that if smart westernized Jews are nice to smart westernized Arabs then maybe those Arabs will prevail upon their brothers and sisters in the Middle East to end the long, unjust, unnecessary, and Koranically-based war against us.
I simply do not see it happening.
Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.