Thursday, March 17, 2011

War of Words, part III -- "Palestinians"

3. “Palestinian State.”

Perhaps the most lethal weapon in our inimical media’s war of words against Israel is the expression “Palestinian.”

“Palestinian” means “from the land once referred to as Palestine.” While it is generally not used incorrectly, this term is still the source of much deception and misrepresentation of the facts. “Palestinian” means something in reality, but also has a perceived meaning that is not factual.

First let’s discuss the historical reality:

There are presently two Palestinian States. There is Jordan, a Judenrein Arab state which took the lion’s share of Palestine. Then there is Israel, a tiny segment of Palestine which was intended be a safe haven for Jewish Palestinians to live. All Israelis are Jewish Palestinians. Arabs who live there can be identified as Palestinian too, but that is rather misleading as it implies that they exclusively have this distinction. It also implies an ancient and ancestral identity. Neither impressions have anything remotely to do with fact.

Prior to the sixties, Arabs who lived in the West Bank were Jordanians. Prior to 1948, they were Arabs living in the British Mandate. Prior to that, they were privileged Muslims living in the Ottoman Empire. Prior to that, in the early to mid 1800’s, they did not live there. No one lived there, aside for a handful of Bedouins and Jews who scarcely survived amidst the unlivable deserts and swamps of Palestine. When European Jews began to arrive in Palestine, they began to hire migrant Arab workers. Arabs arrived in Palestine from all over; Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, etc. This is how the great majority of Arabs came to live in Palestine. Arafat himself was born in Egypt.

In 1947, the UN proposed a Jewish and an Arab state, not a “Palestinian” State. At that time, the Arabs utterly rejected the notion of Palestine. They regarded it as a Zionist invention. (Read article cited below for more historical data).

Nevertheless, we shall not deprive Arabs of their Palestinian identity. But they are no more Palestinian than all the millions of Jews who made their home in Palestine as well in recent generations. Furthermore, they are no more Palestinian than the millions of Arabs who live in Jordan.

A case in point: my cousin’s father was born in the West Bank before 1948. He is Jewish, a fifth-generation Jerusalemite. On his passport he is identified as being “Palestinian.”

Some modern historians argue that the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza ought to be exclusively called “Palestinians” since they have no other national identity, while Palestinian Jews are now “Israelis,” etc.

While this might have been an acceptable and rational argument, the problem is that there is a false connotation, a particularly dangerous one.

You see, the perceived meaning of Palestinian implies something uniquely un-Jewish, even anti-Jewish. As if “Palestinian” Arabs are native to Palestine but Jews are not. It implies that Jews are colonists who encroached on the Arabs’ turf.

In practical terms, a “Palestinian State” implies that it must be Judenrein by very definition. There is no place for a Jew in a “Palestinian” State. Indeed, there seems to be an automatic understanding that if any sort of autonomy or statehood is given to “Palestinian” Arabs, all Jewish homes and businesses in the area must be uprooted and all Jewish residents banished and relocated within “Israel” proper. Muslims and Christians are welcome to live in Israel, but Jews cannot possibly be tolerated in “Palestine.” Never mind the fact that the Jew has lived there for forty years. Never mind the fact that his grandfather lived there in 1929, his great grandfather in 1890, his ancestors in 135 CE, his ancient ancestors in 1273 BCE, and his forefathers in 1713 BCE. (Indeed, the very expression “Palestine” implies that any Jewish historical connection with that land must be erased our collective memories).

“Peace” with “Palestinians” means the “peace” partner must accept that “Palestinian” lands are to be strictly Judenrein. By definition, “peace with Palestinians” means ethnic cleansing.

That is a “peace” that no morally conscious human being could ever possibly accept. That is, of course, as long as the morally conscious human being retains his intellectual objectivity, and does not get indoctrinated by the shamefully biased news media.

Indeed, Dr. Moshe Dann describes the ideology which he calls “Palestinianism.” In his article, he explains that Palestiniansim has no positive self-definition. It only means one thing: the utter rejection of a Jewish state of any form.

Indeed, the very notion of “Palestine” precludes the existence of the Jew. This is why we need a lexical paradigm shift.

Some argue that since the very reference to Palestine precludes Israel’s right to exist, Palestinian Arabs ought to be referred to simply as Arabs, just as they referred to themselves as prior to 1967. Others counter that it is too late; the proverbial cat is out of its bag. A national or geographical identity has been forged. Ignoring it serves no purpose.

Instead, they argue, we ought to correct the historical and ethical error inherent in the term, the notion that a Jew cannot possibly have lived in “Palestine.”

To them, Israel ought to be referred to as “Jewish Palestine” and Jordan as “Arab Palestine,” or “Lesser Palestine” and “Greater Palestine.” The Arabs who live in the West Bank or Gaza can be referred to as “anarchist Muslim Palestinians who don’t accept the sovereignty of Jewish Palestinians.” Even better, Arabs who can’t tolerate the presence of Jewish families in Itamar or Hebron can be called: “racist Judeophobic Muslims who advocate ethnic cleansing.”

A true Palestinian, then, is anyone who chooses to make his home in Palestine (Palestine is a historic designation referring to the entire coastal area of the Mediterranean Sea from the border of Modern Egypt to Turkey, including parts of Syria and the Transjordan. Even if we were to agree to the assertion that in postmodern times, “Palestine” only includes the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, the Jews of Israel are still native to “Palestine,” and are no less Palestinian than their Arab neighbors.)

(Thanks to my friend Zushe the Galilean for pointing this out repeatedly.)

That is one perspective.

However, in my opinion, Israel is the name we ought to call ourselves. We are not “Jewish Palestinians.” This is an insult. We are Israel.

What does Israel mean? What does it represent?

The Torah tells us why G-d changed our Forefather Jacob’s name to Israel. "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with an angel of G-d and with men, and you have prevailed." Etymologically, Israel connotes “commanding power” and “prevailing” over an angel of G-d and humans.

That’s a pretty powerful name. It commands awe and reverence. It reminds us that Israel will ultimately prevail over all her enemies, physical and spiritual.

It’s no mistake that everyone calls us Israel. Even our most vindictive enemies, the ones who incessantly plot evil against us, call us Israel. In their heart of hearts, they know that we are G-d’s people and are invincible. In some deep subconscious way, they intuit that their end is near, for G-d is with us.

Palestine, conversely, is a meaningless word. It was concocted by the Romans who wished to erase any vestiges of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Judea. So they fished up an ancient name, Philistia, a warlike pagan tribe that had vanished eight hundred years earlier. (It’s interesting to note that the ancient Philistines did not live in the “West Bank,” but along the coast). This was five hundred years before any Arabs or Muslims arrived in the Land of Israel.

So why would we wish to perpetuate the lie of the existence of “Palestine?”

So, while I might agree that calling the Jewish State “Jewish Palestine” might be more effective while trying to negotiate in the UN, or might score some points with the “pro-Palestinian” world media, it is still wrong.

There is no such thing as Palestine.

G-d gave us this land. We are His people Israel. So it is the Land of Israel. Period.

If we put it that way, if we speak with the moral clarity and conviction of the Torah, the nations of the world will surely understand.

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