Friday, December 3rd | 29 Kislev 5782

November 18, 2021 1:02 pm

How Palestinian Leaders Falsify and Weaponize History

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi


The UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Photo: File.

A growing body of evidence has confirmed the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the Land of Israel (see here, here, here, here, and here).

Despite this objective proof, Palestinian leaders continue to make outrageous claims with a view to distorting the historical record. And by not holding prominent Palestinians to account, media outlets are complicit in perpetuating what amounts to an anti-Israel narrative.

Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas has gone on record asserting that Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanite tribe of the Jebusites. Yet while Jews and Jebusites may have coexisted in Israel as late as the 11th century BCE, King David conquered Jebus and made it his capital, Jerusalem, sometime between 1005-999 BCE. After that, the trail turns cold. There is no other mention of the Jebusites elsewhere; no artifacts or documents have been found.

In other words, there is no evidence to support the claim of a Jebusite-Palestinian continuity.

But rewriting the foundations of history seemingly comes easy to Palestinian leaders.

In 2018, Saeb Erekat, former chief Palestinian negotiator and secretary-general of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said:

I am the son of Jericho. I am 10,000 years old. … I am the proud son of the Netufians and the Canaanites. I’ve been there for 5,500 years before Joshua Bin Nun came and burned my hometown Jericho. I’m not going to change my narrative.

But how can Erekat’s alleged connection to the land have predated the region’s Islamic conquest that took place 2,000 years after the Biblical Joshua is believed to have lived?

In fact, many Palestinians arrived in Ottoman and British-ruled Palestine from across the Middle East in concert with the fledgling Zionist enterprise that began in the late 19th century.

More recently, Palestinian Authority Mufti of Jerusalem Sheikh Muhammad Hussein said during an interview on Palestine TV in September 2021 that Palestine was occupied by different nations throughout history, but the Palestinian people had always remained on the land since the Canaanite era.

False claims go hand in hand with another tactic employed by Palestinian leaders, that of erasing known links between the Jewish people and historical Israel.

Fatah Revolutionary Council member Bakr Abu Bakr once referred to the “Children of Israel” as an “Arab tribe that became extinct,” adding that “the present residents of our land who are affiliated with the Jewish religion have no connection to them.”

Cues from the Palestinian political class have been picked up on by academics.

Palestinian historian Dr. Ashraf Al-Qasas, during a November 2 interview with Gaza-based Alkofiya TV, said that “Jews constitute surplus, and could not integrate into society. … The Jews were a pile of garbage that you wanted to get rid of … and you do this by dumping them on the neighbors you hate: the Muslims.”

Mahmoud Abbas engaged in this brand of negationist ideology when the Trump administration in December 2017 recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In a speech, Abbas countered Washington’s move with a statement that there never was a Jewish Jerusalem until the modern Zionist movement.

And during the 2000 Camp David summit, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat famously denied that a Jewish Temple had ever existed on the Temple Mount — a microcosm of his denial of the Jews’ historical connection and claim to the Land of Israel.

Instead, he insisted that the real temple was built in the West Bank city of Nablus. The fact that he would not accept even basic Jewish history in the region was seen by both the Israelis and the Clinton administration as a sign that the PLO leader was not negotiating in good faith, despite the generous Israeli peace offer that was put on the table.

A few months after the talks between Jerusalem and Ramallah ended in failure, a concerted campaign of Palestinian terrorism that became known as the Second Intifada erupted.

And it’s not just the Palestinians who are rewriting history. For example, some of UNESCO’s most egregious crimes against history include:

  • Wording that described Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem and Hebron as being Palestinian.
  • Adopting a resolution that referred to the ancient Jewish temple in Jerusalem only as Haram al-Sharif, and the Western Wall Plaza only as al-Buraq plaza, the respective sites’ Muslim names.
  • Declaring that the Hebron site revered by both Jews and Muslims as the burial place of the Biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and their wives as a “Palestinian World Heritage site in danger.”

Citing systemic bias, Israel and the United States quit UNESCO in 2017. “UNESCO is a body that continually rewrites history, including by erasing the Jewish connection to Jerusalem,” Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, said at the time.

PA Rejectionism: From Antiquity to the Here and Now

As British philosopher Edmund Burke once wrote: “In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.”

By turning a blind eye to the past, the media is legitimizing Palestinian rejectionism of coexistence with Israel.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Muhammad Shtayyeh in September of last year stated that there will be no choice but to go back to the starting point of the Palestinian issue in 1948, and in that situation, the Palestinian people will have a single united leadership “from the river to the sea.” He also said that Israel is bound to “die demographically since the Jewish human reservoir in the world has dwindled.”

“From the river to the sea” is a call-to-arms for Palestinian to seize control over the entire territory of Israel’s borders, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.

By diminishing, even whitewashing, Jewish history, major media outlets are making it more difficult to draw on the true history of the region, which could serve as guides for Israelis and Palestinians to finally resolve their decades-old conflict.

The author is a writer-researcher for HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias, where a version of this article first appeared.

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