Who's the 'Occupier'?

How do you bring two opponents to the peace table when their world views are separated by millennia?

In the Palestinian timetable, the Israelites' 3,200 years of history in the land of Israel have mysteriously vanished. According to the Palestinians' worldview, Israel Standard Time commences with the 16th or 19th century. They tell us of an incipient Palestinian nation but make no mention of a much older Jewish-Israeli civilization. And thus, they unilaterally decide when the historical narrative should rightfully begin.

History must start at the beginning. Here is one page from history (1948, Benny Morris) the Palestinians definitely don't want you to see:

The Jewish people was born in the Land of Israel, which it ruled, on and off, for thirteen centuries, between 1200 BCE and the second century CE. The Romans, who conquered and reconquered the land and suppressed successive Jewish revolts in the first and second centuries CE, renamed the land Palaestina ... in an effort to separate the Jews, many of whom they exiled, from their land. Among the Gentiles, the name Palestine stuck. [1]

The revisionist historian Ilan Pappe begins his instruction on the Arab/Israeli conflict from within a man-made construct called Modern Palestine (the title of one of his books). There can be no prequel to this book entitled Israel Was Here First; such a title would undermine his dog and pony show, which is far more persuasive if it can rapidly fast-forward through ancient history and ignore 3,200 years of continuous Jewish rule or presence within Israel.

Pappe, master magician, in absolute fantastical fashion, exchanges the real homegrown natives of this narrative -- the Jewish people -- for the inhabitants of a contrived land (and starting point) from history's standpoint -- the Palestinians of Modern Palestine. His playbook calls for the creation ex nihilo of a Middle East of 1856, on the eve of the Crimean War. The world according to Pappe indulges in ahistoric conceptual spaces which leave absolutely no room for thousands of years of elapsed time and events; in Pappe's view, anything before 1856 gets lost in the convenient fog of a self-proclaimed prehistory.    

Perhaps when performing his requisite research, Pappe failed to notice this one fascinating fact (in The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz):

From then on (Roman conquest and onward), despite repeated efforts by the Romans, the Crusaders, and some Muslims to make Palestine empty of Jews, thousands of Jews managed to remain in its holy cities, especially Jerusalem, Safad, Tiberius, and Hebron. There were also Jewish communities in Gaza, Rafah, Ashkelon, Caesarea, Jaffa, Acre, and Jericho. [2]

Or this one (in Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh):

... not only was there always a Jewish presence in Palestine, but the Jews' longing for their ancestral homeland, or Zion, occupied a focal point in their collective memory for millennia and became an integral part of Jewish religious ritual. [3]

Several other pro-Palestinian authors consistently begin their discussions on "Palestine" with the arrival of the Ottoman Empire (1516 CE), or, at the very least, before the year 1881. In both cases, the overwhelming percentage of Palestine's inhabitants were Muslim. But these pundits will never sell you books on the Levant which report on the continuum of Jewish settlement and activity before the dawn of Islam in 610 CE, because their pages contain passages like these (In Ishmael's House by Martin Gilbert):

For more than a thousand years before Mohammed's birth in the year 570, Jews lived in what were to become Muslim lands...Jerusalem, which came under Muslim rule for the first time in 638 CE, had formed a focal point of Jewish life for more than a millennium before the dawn of Islam. [4]

I would imagine that Jerusalem Mayor and Muslim dignitary Yusuf al-Khalidi owned a collection of books capable of expressing far more truth than today's university-press offerings when he declared in 1899, "Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, it is really your country."

We cannot begin the process of considering the ramifications of terms like "occupiers" or "colonial interlopers" if time is to be tinkered with like some plaything. Ideas such as "refugee," "ethnic cleansing," "settler," "racial animosity," and "territorial identity" cease to hold any meaning in the absence of a credible historical perspective. Israel's enemies benefit from repeated revisionist attempts to disassociate past from present in back-to-the-future-esque fashion. Amnesia-like scholarship is more than just confusing; it is a pernicious strategy whose sole purpose is to thwart our own ability to promote any true and lasting, ultimate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.             

Rabbi Aron Hier is subject expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Director of Campus Outreach at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. E-mail: iact@wiesenthal.com

[1] 1948, Page 1, Professor Benny Morris

[2] The Case for Israel, Page 17, Alan Dershowitz

[3] Palestine Betrayed, Page 8, Efraim Karsh  

[4] In Ishmael's House, Page 1, Martin Gilbert 
How do you bring two opponents to the peace table when their world views are separated by millennia?

In the Palestinian timetable, the Israelites' 3,200 years of history in the land of Israel have mysteriously vanished. According to the Palestinians' worldview, Israel Standard Time commences with the 16th or 19th century. They tell us of an incipient Palestinian nation but make no mention of a much older Jewish-Israeli civilization. And thus, they unilaterally decide when the historical narrative should rightfully begin.

History must start at the beginning. Here is one page from history (1948, Benny Morris) the Palestinians definitely don't want you to see:

The Jewish people was born in the Land of Israel, which it ruled, on and off, for thirteen centuries, between 1200 BCE and the second century CE. The Romans, who conquered and reconquered the land and suppressed successive Jewish revolts in the first and second centuries CE, renamed the land Palaestina ... in an effort to separate the Jews, many of whom they exiled, from their land. Among the Gentiles, the name Palestine stuck. [1]

The revisionist historian Ilan Pappe begins his instruction on the Arab/Israeli conflict from within a man-made construct called Modern Palestine (the title of one of his books). There can be no prequel to this book entitled Israel Was Here First; such a title would undermine his dog and pony show, which is far more persuasive if it can rapidly fast-forward through ancient history and ignore 3,200 years of continuous Jewish rule or presence within Israel.

Pappe, master magician, in absolute fantastical fashion, exchanges the real homegrown natives of this narrative -- the Jewish people -- for the inhabitants of a contrived land (and starting point) from history's standpoint -- the Palestinians of Modern Palestine. His playbook calls for the creation ex nihilo of a Middle East of 1856, on the eve of the Crimean War. The world according to Pappe indulges in ahistoric conceptual spaces which leave absolutely no room for thousands of years of elapsed time and events; in Pappe's view, anything before 1856 gets lost in the convenient fog of a self-proclaimed prehistory.    

Perhaps when performing his requisite research, Pappe failed to notice this one fascinating fact (in The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz):

From then on (Roman conquest and onward), despite repeated efforts by the Romans, the Crusaders, and some Muslims to make Palestine empty of Jews, thousands of Jews managed to remain in its holy cities, especially Jerusalem, Safad, Tiberius, and Hebron. There were also Jewish communities in Gaza, Rafah, Ashkelon, Caesarea, Jaffa, Acre, and Jericho. [2]

Or this one (in Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh):

... not only was there always a Jewish presence in Palestine, but the Jews' longing for their ancestral homeland, or Zion, occupied a focal point in their collective memory for millennia and became an integral part of Jewish religious ritual. [3]

Several other pro-Palestinian authors consistently begin their discussions on "Palestine" with the arrival of the Ottoman Empire (1516 CE), or, at the very least, before the year 1881. In both cases, the overwhelming percentage of Palestine's inhabitants were Muslim. But these pundits will never sell you books on the Levant which report on the continuum of Jewish settlement and activity before the dawn of Islam in 610 CE, because their pages contain passages like these (In Ishmael's House by Martin Gilbert):

For more than a thousand years before Mohammed's birth in the year 570, Jews lived in what were to become Muslim lands...Jerusalem, which came under Muslim rule for the first time in 638 CE, had formed a focal point of Jewish life for more than a millennium before the dawn of Islam. [4]

I would imagine that Jerusalem Mayor and Muslim dignitary Yusuf al-Khalidi owned a collection of books capable of expressing far more truth than today's university-press offerings when he declared in 1899, "Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, it is really your country."

We cannot begin the process of considering the ramifications of terms like "occupiers" or "colonial interlopers" if time is to be tinkered with like some plaything. Ideas such as "refugee," "ethnic cleansing," "settler," "racial animosity," and "territorial identity" cease to hold any meaning in the absence of a credible historical perspective. Israel's enemies benefit from repeated revisionist attempts to disassociate past from present in back-to-the-future-esque fashion. Amnesia-like scholarship is more than just confusing; it is a pernicious strategy whose sole purpose is to thwart our own ability to promote any true and lasting, ultimate peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.             

Rabbi Aron Hier is subject expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Director of Campus Outreach at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. E-mail: iact@wiesenthal.com

[1] 1948, Page 1, Professor Benny Morris

[2] The Case for Israel, Page 17, Alan Dershowitz

[3] Palestine Betrayed, Page 8, Efraim Karsh  

[4] In Ishmael's House, Page 1, Martin Gilbert