This is intended as the first of a number of short essays on “The uses and abuses of ‘history’ in the Palestinian-Arab war against Israel.
Essay ONE: Palestine, Past and Present
A key to understanding the duel that is going on today between the State of Israel and its local enemy the “Palestinians” is to be found in the motto that governed Lewis Carroll’s “Wonderland” – that words can mean anything you want them to.
To begin with: we note the universal use of the term “President” or “President of Palestine” or “President of the Palestine Authority” ahead of the name Mahmoud Abbas. Yet Mahmoud Abbas himself has absolutely no right under the Basic Law of Palestine to refer to himself as President of anything. The term of office to which he was elected by democratic vote ran out over four years ago. The office is vacant, and if constitutionality meant anything in Palestinian circles he should be judged a usurper; and if legitimacy meant anything in our media or in the minds of our own rulers, he should have been shown the door long ago. It is exactly as though Paul Martin were still strutting around as Prime Minister of Canada or George W. Bush as President of the United States.
It was not Abbas’s party (Fatah) but Hamas that won the mandate of January, 2006, after which the leader of Hamas, Ismail Haniyeh, was appointed Prime Minister of the Palestine Authority by the President (February, 2006.) But the ensuing round of assassinations of Hamas figures by Fatah figures and vice versaled Hamas’ leaders to conclude that more could be gained by quitting Ramallah, the administrative capital pro tem of Palestine, seizing all of Gaza, liquidating the leading Fatah figures there, and proclaiming themselves to be the rightful rulers of Palestine. Haniyeh continues to call himself Prime Minister of Palestine although much of our media is under the impression that Gaza is a sovereign entity or at least a Province and that Haniyeh is Prime Minister (or something) of that. He has no more right to any of his titles than Abbas has to the title of President, as the tenure of the Parliament elected in 2006 has also run out.
This embarrassing truth is never hinted at by our governments – not by the government of Canada, not by the Government of the United States, and, most incongruously of all, not by the government of Israel. Our elected politicians go on wining and dining “President Abbas” out of a Machiavellian calculation that if anything is ever to be rescued from the long-collapsed Peace Process we have to pretend to have a “Partner for Peace” that once got himself elected. It is all one patronizing fantasy – this notion of an emergent Palestinian democracy, embodied in the courageous, beleaguered leadership of the Palestine Authority. It is Orwellian double-think, kept alive by the agreement among media, politicians and opinion-elites that titles can have whatever meaning it is convenient to give to them so long as the cause of achieving peace through democracy is served.
In pretending not to notice the illegitimacy of the Abbas regime we are stooping to acceptance of the congenital contempt for historical fact has bedeviled the political history of Islam since Muhammad proclaimed his message nearly fourteen centuries ago.
Mahmoud Abbas, Statesman and Historian
On September 13, 1993, a splendid ceremony was held on the White House Lawn to praise the government of Israel and the leaders of the terrorist group, Palestine Liberation Organization, as heroic peacemakers, worthy of inclusion among history’s noblest spirits. To meet the needs of this unprecedented occasion, the records of Yasir Arafat and the records of his closest companions had to be moved off the shelves, their origins as terrorists quickly forgotten. If the past was to be referred to at all, the emphasis was to be on redemption. For example, the freedom fighter, Abu Mazen, who coordinated fund-raising for the Munich Olypmic massacre, [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/si_online/news/2002/08/20.] was henceforth to be referred to by us (but not by the Palestinians themselves) by a civilian name, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas was quickly redesigned as a family man, dedicated from his beginnings to diplomacy, a serious, benign scholarly gentleman, whose greatest love was the study of history. Abbas, does, indeed, hold an advanced degree in History. He earned it at the Patrice LumumbaUniversity in Moscow, designed by the Soviet Union for the advanced training of foreign revolutionaries. (Since 1992, this University has been called the People’s Friendship University of Russia.)
While at PLU, Mahmoud Abbas wrote a doctoral thesis, The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement, later published (but only in Arabic) by a Jordanian publisher under a title that (we are told) would read in English: The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism. Mazen’s book presents a deconstructionist understanding of the Holocaust, beginning with challenge of the generally accepted numbers of victims. “Many scholars,” notes Dr. Abbas, “have debated the figure of six million figure of victims of the Holocaust and reached stunning conclusions fixing the number of Jewish victims at only a few hundred thousand… It seems that the interest of the Zionist movement, however, is to inflate this figure [to six million] … in order to gain the solidarity of international public opinion with Zionism.” There were, in any case, no gas chambers.
This demonstration of vagueness and obfuscation about matters long settled by scholarship tells us everything we need to know about Abbas’s qualification to be called an historian. Yet, The official BCC News Profiledescribes Abbas as “A highly intellectual man, Abbas studied law in Egypt before doing a Ph.D. in Moscow. He is the author of several books,” while the New York Times has described him as “a lawyer and historian.” [Scott Brown, “ Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” http://scottbrownscerebralcaffeine.wordpress.com/tag/protocols-of-the-elders-of-zion.]
Nowadays, Abbas’s scholarly and polemical skills go to vilification of Israelis and Jews. He sets his sheepskin up front as token of his scholarly soundness while he belittles the history of Israel and the Jews and demonstrates that nobody ever really intended there to be a Jewish state. As diplomacy dedicated to Peace Process has gone into deep freeze, Abbas has all the time in the world to badmouth Israel, its undeserved reputation for liberalism, for education, for research for science. Mahmoud Abbas and other principal figures in the Palestine Authority use the prestige of their titles to pursue in international media and at the UN a two-sided campaign of aggrandizement of Palestine and belittlement of Israel. Abbas’s scholarly labours have led him to the conclusion that the so-called State of Israel is not fit to be a neighbor of Palestine.
The latest breakthrough in the PA’s propaganda offensive has been its success in establishing in the minds of our scholars, our leaders of opinion and, with truly resounding success, our churchmen the counter-factual theorem that Palestine is a ancient and distinguished while Israel is a fraud.
Here is the syllogism:
- Palestine is real; Palestine has always been here; the Palestinian People have always been here.
- Israel is not real. Israel is an invention of the mid-Twentieth century AD, the product of European imperialism, foisted upon the world by a Zionist conspiracy in control of international diplomacy.
The contempt for Zionism in the company of opinion elites in the West, where all lines of argument that belittle Israel’s right to exist are accepted as authentic without examination, explains the great success that Abbas and his fellow Palestinian statesmen have encountered with this syllogism.
Dr. Abbas recognizes the possibilities for creative minds created by his contempt for history. His hope is to turn the tables on the tedious textbooks, to establish in all minds the politically correct notion that it is Palestine that is ancient, that has the historical pedigree, and Israel that is without pedigree.
For example: Palestinian Authority TV News hews consistently to the PA policy of denying the history of Jewish presence in Jerusalem and in particular the existence at any time of a Jewish Temple. In a report about Israel’s excavations on the Temple Mount exposing part of the Western Wall, PA TV stated:
“There’s [an Israeli] race against the clock to complete the excavations in search of [Jerusalem’s] Temple that exists only in the minds of radical organizations ….
[The Israelis] falsify historical facts by linking them to Jewish history, the traces of which don’t exist in our land. [PA TV News: No trace of Jewish history in “our land” http://palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=157&doc_id=7905November 12, 2012.]
Israel’s excavations of the Western Wall have nothing to do with any archeological project, PA authorities declaim, but are cover for a plot to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque from below.
Palestinian “historiography” (if sheer assertion without reference to any documentary or archeological evidence can be dignified by such a term) asserts that until the day before yesterday the Jews, or Israelis, call them what you will, never resided in this area, never had a Kingdom, never had a temple. [A bottomless source of documented assertions by officials of the PA and Muslim clergy in promotion of this anti-history can be found by consulting the website of Palestine Media http://palwatch.org/. Among recent lunatic examples are: “Moses was a Muslim who led Muslims in Exodus from Egypt, says PA university lecturer on PA/ Israel’s conquest of the Land of Israel defined as ‘The first Palestinian liberation through armed struggle to liberate Palestine” (April 2, 2012); and “There never was a Temple… for the Jews …. [says PA Mufti.] They [the Jews] want to say or suggest that this place (Temple Mount) was once, according to their claim, a Temple. However, in truth, there never was a Templein any period, nor was there, at any time, any place of worship for the Jews or others at the Al-Aqsa Mosque site (built on the Temple Mount, 705 CE).” Palestinian TV, Jan. 5, 2012.]
In order to keep this free-floating dogma unsullied, Muslim religious authorities on the Temple Mount have been hauling away to garbage dumps the debris resulting from their building projects on the site. When Israeli scholars find and display artifacts clearly illustrating the presence of the People of Israel or of the Temple of the Jews, Palestinian authorities simply claim them as proofs of “Palestinian” presence.
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Keen as they are on siding with the victims of Israeli aggression, our cultural elites and, most distressing of all, our church leaders today indulge these knuckle-dragging assertions about Palestine and Palestine’s history for tactical purposes: they believe that polemical solidarity with the Palestinian victims will make it possible for us to keep Palestine’s “elected leaders” in the great cause of moving towards the Day of Peace.
Why should we care about these assertions about long-gone days? We should care because all this double-think is doing great damage to truth. We know that no historical commentary is ever free of self-serving bias. Bias occurs because of the human weakness of the historians and the sources they deal with. But in our western tradition no party ever justifies or admits distortion of historical fact for political advantage – although it can happen easily enough. On the other side, the Muslim side, distortion of historical fact has always been done boldly and on the grandest scale and always with impunity. This is because the methods of history have never developed on Islamic soil. The Qur’an itself is based upon the most blatant manipulation of history. It is to this unpleasant theme that I turn in my next essay — “The Muslim Case for Jerusalem.”