The Latest in Islamic Revisionism
Many are familiar with the concept of revisionist history -- the rewriting of past events to reflect a particular bias -- but there is a contemporary example that receives far too little attention in our American media, that being the history of Jews in the Middle East.
Palestinian apologists have made a major industry out of creating a past for themselves by distorting the archeological record. What cannot be distorted is ignored, and what cannot be ignored has, in some cases, been destroyed. Not surprisingly, this particular form of historical reconstruction invariably finds the lowly Jew to be an interloper in the Middle East -- not only now, but throughout all of discernable history.
One such apologist, Mr. Maen Rashid Areikat, "honored" our fair city of Omaha, Nebraska recently when he spoke at the invitation of the Global Studies Conference at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Mr. Areikat is the director-general at the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Negotiations Affairs Department and a close advisor of Mahmoud Abbas. He is presently the chief representative of the PLO delegation to the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently described Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani as "a wolf in sheep's clothing." He might wish to apply that description to Areikat, a man for whom the phrase may well have been coined.
Mr. Areikat's message is a simple one. Jerusalem belongs to the Palestinians and, by extension, to Islam. Of course, his message has far fewer sharp edges when he delivers it to non-Muslims. He adopts a folksy, world-weary tone when calling for a Palestinian state, as if he has been single-handedly standing up to the recalcitrant Israeli leadership, and while desperate for help, he remains too humble to ask.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal last year, Areikat presented the case that a Palestinian state is in Israel's best interests. He championed the preferred narrative of the anti-Israeli left with a deftness born of mindless repetition, repeating the long-debunked argument that the Jewish claim to Jerusalem is no stronger than that of the Palestinians. He goes on to contrast the "brutal" Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza against the Palestinian Authority's altruistic efforts to normalize relations.
When he is not as guarded in his speech, Areikat reveals the white bone of Islamic inflexibility. Asked in an interview if the Jews ever had a Temple in Jerusalem, he demurred, saying only, "I'm not an historian."
When pressed, he doubled down on his newly minted understanding of history, asserting that Jews were never part of Jerusalem -- that the "Jewishness" of a place known for millennia as the "City of David" is in fact a myth, despite literally thousands of years of archeological evidence putting the lie to his self-serving construct.
While the concept of a historically non-Jewish Jerusalem is increasing in popularity among the anti-Semitic left, it remains curious that Arabs continue to demand control over Jerusalem, when it's abundantly clear from the Koran itself that neither Allah nor Mohammed ever intended it for Muslims in the first place. As far as the Koran is concerned, Muslims have no more claim to Jerusalem than Jews have to Medina.
Jewish authority over Jerusalem should come as no surprise to Islamic scholars. In Surah 2:144-147, the Koran describes Allah's gift of Mecca to Mohammed. In this passage, we find Mohammed pouting that he had been mocked by the Jews for making use of their city, Jerusalem, as a focus of worship. He didn't deny Jewish authority over Jerusalem; he simply fumed that Islam had no place of its own -- an unfortunate situation that Mohammed (er...I mean Allah!) moved to remedy posthaste.
From the very beginning, Mohammed appropriated much of Jewish and Christian tradition for inclusion in his new religion, but Islam was not yet complete, as it lacked a "Holy City" -- a deficit that spawned a sixth-century version of "keeping up with the Joneses," if you will.
According to Islamic tradition, Allah sent the angel Gabriel to "re-orient" Mohammed during prayers, pointing him toward Mecca. From a purely logistical standpoint, early Muslims could count themselves lucky that Mohammed assumed that Allah meant to give them Mecca and not, say, Zanzibar, which lay in the same direction, only a scant two thousand miles farther.
The point being, not only did Allah and his prophet Mohammed show clear deference for the Jewish claim to Jerusalem, but this reality was confirmed and continued under "Omar the Conqueror," Mohammed's successor and the most powerful and influential caliph in Islamic history.
While Omar is widely known as the conqueror of Jerusalem, what is not so well-known is that after he conquered the city he promptly repopulated Jerusalem with Jews, repatriating them from the Arabian Peninsula, providing an ironic prefiguration of the establishment of the modern state of Israel centuries later.
Clearly, Omar felt that Jerusalem was a city for the Jews and encouraged their residence in a homeland they hadn't seen since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Omar constructed a small mosque in Jerusalem, allowing him the ability to maintain the spiritual health of the Muslim garrisons left to defend Jerusalem from the Romans, but otherwise granted Jews authority over their spiritual and ancestral home. Omar, successor of Mohammed, believed that the Jewish claim to Jerusalem was absolute, transcending five centuries of exile.
All this brings us full circle to Mr. Areikat, and his creative revisionism of long-established historical record. In the spirit of fairness, the level of silliness that has come to hallmark the Islamic attempts to write themselves into a history they themselves never experienced cannot be laid solely at the feet of Areikat. He simply parrots the narrative du jour, embellishing as needed to tailor the story to his audience.
To the uninitiated, Areikat's words have a soothing quality, coaxing a long-ailing sense of hope from the listener, stirring a belief that at long last they may have encountered an authentic negotiating partner. It is important for us to realize, however, that Areikat is powerless without the hope harbored by non-Muslims that perhaps an acknowledgment of his viewpoint may herald a break in the present impasse.
It is the sanitized version of Maen Rashid Areikat our students heard speak in Omaha on the 3rd of October, 2013. It is Areikat's revision of history that they carried away with them, greatly misinforming their view of the Mid-East conflict.
It's regrettable that the students didn't learn the unedited plan for the Middle East sought by Areikat -- the version that declares any future Palestinian state must be "Jew-free," requiring the forced removal of all Jews as a condition of Palestinian sovereignty.
Despite his rhetoric, perhaps even Areikat himself senses the weakness of his own argument. When asked about the decline of social interactions between Jew and Arab, he lets slip a glimpse behind the veils of obfuscation and fantasy that have characterized the "history" of the "Palestinian people."
I remember when I traveled to Europe in the late '70s, and to the United States in the early '80s, yes, we thought of ourselves as Palestinians, but we were traveling with Jordanian passports. Publicly we are Jordanians, but deep inside we are Palestinians.
Therein lies the truth Areikat himself has tried so hard to conceal: there is no such thing as a "Palestinian."
Dr. Mark Christian is the executive director of the Global Faith Institute and is himself a former Muslim. For more information regarding his mission, please visit www.globalfaithinstitute.org. Mr. Herring is an author who welcomes visitors to his website at www.readmorejoe.com.