Open letter to Fred Maroun.

As writer of this letter I am not someone who makes it her life’s mission to bring others down.  In fact quite the opposite.  I look for positives wherever I can and try not to be critical.

I have read with interest the different opinions on all sides of the political spectrum, particularly concerning Israel, because I honestly believe all views are important and should be considered.  I believe that all “wings” are important and that it takes both a left wing and a right wing for any bird to fly.

That said, when I see errors, whether intentional or otherwise, made by people of many views or political persuasions, I simply must address those errors thoughtfully and respectfully.

I have read Fred Maroun’s articles for some time.  As he himself admits he shifts his opinion on Israel (ie one state/two states) quite frequently.  While others find him unreliable, I actually think he is trying wholeheartedly to understand, and find a solution to a very difficult situation, shifting as he is learning.

credit: Times of Israel

However, whether he has intended to or not, Fred Maroun’s latest article “Palestinian statehood would rise from the ashes of Palestinian terrorism” is a mishmash of information and misinformation and he, I hope inadvertently, has made some grave errors.

When one casually reads his article, Fred Maroun appears to be showing an equal analysis, but in reality his terminology usage and his conclusions reveal that he is not as unbiased as he purports to be.

He has painted the ‘Palestinian’ cause as something “nationalistic” and concludes that the Holy Land is the ‘Palestinians’ “ancestral homeland.”  He mixes up his terminology but finally in a later paragraph under the heading “Citizenship” makes correct and important distinctions.

The truth is that “Palestinian” is not an ethnicity like the Jews and Arabs. ‘Palestinians’ are an umbrella group of many ethnicities formed as a way of identification, but also as in a combined opposition to the Jewish state.  Their nationalistic aspirations are not due to returning to their ancestral homeland like the Jews or other indigenous populations.  ‘Palestinian’ nationalism is based on a combined desire to be rid of the actual first nation population, the Jews!

Fred Maroun quotes one of Israel’s “founding fathers” as somehow showing an underlying conspiracy against the ‘Palestinians’ and a journey towards becoming “apartheid” (which by the way is entirely incorrect) but he also fails to quote the ‘Palestinians’ founding fathers, Yasser Arafat would be an obvious choice, about his attitude towards Israelis.

The Golda Meir quote Fred Maroun used was taken out of context.  She was not saying there were no other people in the Holy Land,  but that historically, it was not until the establishment of Israel that the ‘Palestinian’ people emerged.

Yasser Arafat on the other hand was quite explicit about his “apartheid” intentions towards Jews.  He was quoted over and over including that the “goal of our struggle is the end of Israel, and there can be no compromises or mediations…… We don’t want peace, we want victory. Peace for us means Israel’s destruction and nothing else.” Washington Post (29 March 1970).

It is important to rightly identify the two main players in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

Israelis are primarily Jews and many other ethnicities and ethno-religious groups including those who identify as Arabs, Druze, Bedouins, Circassions, Greeks, Armenians, Bosnians….

‘Palestinians’ are majority Arab with a mixture of ethnicities and ethno-religious groups including Bosnians, Armenians, Turkish, Samaritans…..

Throughout Fred Maroun’s article he compares “Jews” and “Palestinians” instead of Jews and Arabs, or Israelis and ‘Palestinians’.  ‘Palestinian’ is a political nationalistic identity and Jew is an ethnicity and as such these two are not comparable.  He considered that the Jews have an “attachment to Israel” but then he parallels the ‘Palestinians’ as being the rightful owners with his use of the words “their land!”

Fred Maroun speaks of the “denial by Zionists of ‘Palestinian’ nationalism” and then throws in his stock standard swipe at “right wing governments.”  His reference of course is the right wing of Israeli governments but an important parallel would have been the “right wing of ‘Palestinian’ governments.”

As he would know, there is no left wing to ‘Palestinian’ nationalism or ‘Palestinian’ governments and he needs to address this rather than shift the majority of blame to the attitudes of “Zionists” and “right wing governments.”

Whether he has intended to or not, Fred Maroun has portrayed Zionism as something negative but ‘Palestinian’ nationalism as something positive.  He presents arguments for nationalism from both sides then concludes that “both are wrong.”

He is actually very wrong in both his analysis and conclusions and he forgets that Jews did not come primarily from Europe or America but over 50 percent of Israelis actually lived in Arab controlled countries for centuries.

credit: Wikipedia.

Fred Maroun’s assertions that the Holy Land is ‘Palestinian’ homeland as much as it is Jewish homeland is ridiculous.  If ancestral land simply means a land that was settled for one or two generations, then Jews from Tunisia, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Turkey etc can therefore claim to be indigenous to those locations.

‘Palestinians’ are not indigenous to the Holy Land and trying to state that their nationalistic aspirations are due to their “ancestral homeland” is misleading.

An honest way to correctly define these groups and then draw a conclusion would be to look at the settlement of all and understand the difference between nationalism by ethnicity and birth or settlement.

The Jewish population are the indigenous population to the Holy Land.  Yes they lived in other locations and occasionally (rarely) others married into the tribe (not unlike others married into the Arab tribe).

They had continual presence in the Holy Land until finally under the Ottomans (late 19th Century) and then the British (early 20th Century) they were able to resettle in larger numbers.  Up until this time the Jews were forbidden to resettle in what was clearly identifiably Jewish ancestral land.

If someone was to ask throughout the centuries where the Jews originated from, the answer would be the Holy Land.  If someone was to ask where the Arabs originate from, the answer would not have been the Holy Land and like Golda Meir correctly asserted there was no group of people who identified as ‘Palestinian’ until after the formation of Israel in 1948.  In fact it wasn’t until 1964 that the ‘Palestinians’ combined their many groups of ethnicities to form a group of people to be known as the “Palestinians.”

If we look at Israeli Nationalism v ‘Palestinian Nationalism (instead of Jewish v Palestinian) things become clearer and easier to define.

Israeli Nationalism is built on the return of the Jews to their ancestral homeland and includes as citizens other ethnicities who live in Israel (there are many outspoken Arabs and others who identify and love their homeland Israel).

‘Palestinian’ Nationalism is something quite different.  If Fred Maroun were to quote, as I pointed out, some of the ‘Palestinian’ “founding fathers” their nationalism was quite clear.  It had nothing to do with a love for their homeland but rather the desire to obliterate the Jews.

Maroun seems to be very out of touch with history and the political reality of why we are where we are today and what can be done.  His pie in the sky if the ‘Palestinians’ “choose conciliation” is all well and good, but what he proposes is based on a shared heritage that does not exist and nationalism that is not at all comparable.

I wish Fred Maroun the best and hope he does take what has been written here on board.  Peace is always possible but feeding into the narrative that ‘Palestinians’ are one people who have an ancestral link to “their land” does nothing to defuse the situation. It actually has the opposite effect and gives license to terrorism and excuses their behaviour.


Gayle De Haas, a field archaeologist who has worked extensively in Israel .

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  1. “Their Land” narrative is false. Before 1918, it was Turkish land, not Arab land. Jews and Arabs lived there. When the Turks lost the land in World War I, they gave it to the Jews who are now the legal owners (Treaty of Sevres Article 95).

  2. Malgorzata Koraszewska

    There is yet another equivalence here which gives me shivers. It was written many times that the Jewish state has risen from the ashes of Auschwitz. For so knowledgeable person as Fred Maroun to write (with hope, I presume) that Palestinian state would rise from the ashes of Palestinian terrorist feels to me almost like sacriledge. Victims of Palestinian terrorism were (and are) Jews. That means that that Palestinian statehood would be build on Jewish ashes and this is something Fred Maroun approves and is advocating for. For many years I was translating Fred Marouns articles into Polish and he was a source of my optimism: people from Arab countries can liberate themselves from the lifelong indoctrination, which must mean that there is a chance for peace between Arabs and Jews. This optimism got now a hard slap straight in the face.