The Palestinian History Hoax
by Eric Rozenman
Those crazy Palestinians! In a region literally exploding with practical jokers, they’ve again mastered this lowest form of humor. And they did it by ensnaring the New York Times (via the Associated Press), the Washington Post, and USA Today simultaneously.
Their latest trick? Opening a history museum with no exhibits.
Writing about last month’s press opening, USA Today — mirroring the Post and the Times — reported that the $24 million, 43,000 square foot Palestinian Museum of Art, History and Culture in Bir Zeit, about 13 miles north of Jerusalem, “showcases a beautiful building with sweeping views. All that’s missing are the exhibits.”
Promised future exhibits sound contemporary and political, not historical. As Daniel Pipes and others have noted, Palestinian Arab nationalism only stretches back to the end of World War I. It emerged quite specifically in 1920, not in renewal of deeply-rooted trends, but in reaction to and rejection of Zionism and Jewish national development.
USA Today said of the museum, “it’s an unfortunate metaphor for a people long in search of a national identity and homeland.” Nevertheless, at the ribbon-cutting, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas declared, “We have been planted here since the dawn of history.”
Then where were the ancient artifacts? In reality, the museum’s opening was less about history than polemics. Press accounts noted that the debut was “timed to coincide with Nakba week—‘catastrophe’ in Arabic, a reference to the 1948 creation of Israel which led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.”
Historically, what led to the Arab “catastrophe” was their unanimous rejection of the UN’s 1947 plan to partition British Mandatory Palestine into two tiny states, one Arab and one Jewish. The catastrophe, for their side, was the failure of armies from five Arab countries and Palestinian Arab “irregulars” to destroy Israel the next year. If there had been no Arab war against Israel, there would have been no displacement. The English translation of nakba ought to be “consequences.”
Were the displaced Arabs actually Palestinian? Abbas claims that they “have been planted” forever in the land of Israel. But Azmi Bishara, a former Arab Israeli member of Knesset (parliament), said in a 2009 television interview:
Well, I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation, I always thought so and I didn’t change my mind…. I never turned to be a Palestinian nationalist, despite my decisive struggle against the occupation [against Israel]. I think that until the end of the 19th century, Palestine was the South of Great Syria.
Zahir Muhsein, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, told a Dutch newspaper in 1977 that “the Palestinian people does not exist. … The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.”
Arabs at the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations in Jerusalem in 1919 wanted victorious World War I Allies to get something straight: “We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious linguistic, natural, economic and geographic bonds.”
“Palestine” and “Palestinian” do not derive from Arabic words or Muslim concepts. It’s the other way around. The Romans used “Palaestina” after defeating the second Jewish revolt. They meant to erase the connection between the land of Judea (Yehuda in the earlier Hebrew) and those rebellious Jews (Yehudim), by recalling the long-gone, non-Arab Philistines, wiped out by Babylonia around 600 BCE. In contrast, the Jews, taken into Babylonian captivity a few years later, returned to rebuild Jerusalem and their Second Temple long before the Romans showed up.
Yet these major American media outlets bought the Palestinians’ lie — and their fraudulent museum — hook, line, and sinker. Palestinian pranksters at it again.
The writer is Washington director of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Any opinions expressed above are solely his own.