Mid­dle East peace? Start with the truth

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Edi­tor’s note: This com­men­tary is a slightly re­worked ver­sion of one I wrote 11 years ago, with­out a doubt the most pop­u­lar col­umn I ever wrote. Af­ter it was pub­lished, I was im­me­di­ately of­fered a reg­u­lar col­umn in The Jerusalem Post. The com­men­tary went vi­ral over a pe­riod of many months and was ul­ti­mately read by mil­lions.

Iheard from friends that I had not seen for 20 or 30 years. I was in­un­dated with tens of thou­sands of fan emails over the course of years. It re­sulted in tele­vi­sion ap­pear­ances, ra­dio shows and even some pla­gia­rism. With re­cent de­vel­op­ments in Wash­ing­ton and Jerusalem, I thought it was time to re­pub­lish the essen­tials.

Barack Obama says he’s got a new plan for peace in the Mid­dle East. All we have to do, he says, is give the “Pales­tini­ans” their own state, with con­tigu­ous borders, carved out of the ter­ri­tory that Is­rael cap­tured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

In fact, there’s noth­ing “new” about this plan at all. The plan ac­tu­ally dates back to 1948 when Is­rael was recre­ated. At that time, so-called “Pales­tinian” Arabs got their own state, but they re­jected it along with the rest of the Arab world. But still the myth per­sists that the key to a Mid­dle East peace is grant­ing “Pales­tini­ans” a home­land and Mus­lims con­trol over sites they con­sider holy.

Well, as an Arab-Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist who has spent some time in the Mid­dle East dodg­ing more than my share of rocks and mor­tar shells, I’ve got to tell you that these are just phony claims for an asym­met­ri­cal, geno­ci­dal cam­paign against the Jews of Is­rael.

Isn’t it in­ter­est­ing that prior to the 1967 Arab-Is­raeli war, there was no se­ri­ous move­ment for a “Pales­tinian” home­land?

“Well, Farah,” you might say, “that was be­fore the Is­raelis seized the West Bank and Old Jerusalem.”

That’s true. In the Six-Day War, Is­rael cap­tured Judea, Sa­maria and East Jerusalem. But they didn’t cap­ture these ter­ri­to­ries from the “Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity” or Ha­mas. They cap­tured them from Jor­dan’s King Hus­sein. I can’t help but won­der why all these Pales­tini­ans sud­denly dis­cov­ered their na­tional iden­tity af­ter Is­rael won the war.

The truth is that “Pales­tine” is no more real than Nev­erN­ever Land. The name was first used in A.D. 70 when the Ro­mans com­mit­ted geno­cide against the Jews, smashed the Tem­ple and de­clared the land of Is­rael would be no more. From then on, the Ro­mans promised, it would be known as “Pales- tine.” The name was de­rived from the Philistines, a Go­liathian peo­ple con­quered by the Jews cen­turies ear­lier. It was a way for the Ro­mans to add in­sult to in­jury. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capi­tolina, but that had even less staying power.

“Pales­tine” has never ex­isted, be­fore or since, as an au-

There is no lan­guage known as Pales­tinian. There has never been a land known as Pales­tine gov­erned by Pales­tini­ans.

tonomous en­tity. It was ruled al­ter­nately by Rome, by Is­lamic and Chris­tian cru­saders, by the Ot­toman Em­pire and, briefly, by the Bri­tish af­ter World War I. The Bri­tish agreed to re­store at least part of the land to the Jewish peo­ple as their home­land.

There is no lan­guage known as Pales­tinian. There is no dis­tinct Pales­tinian cul­ture. There has never been a land known as Pales­tine gov­erned by Pales­tini­ans. Pales­tini­ans are Arabs, in­dis­tin­guish­able from Jor­da­ni­ans (an­other re­cent in­ven­tion), Syr­i­ans, Le­banese, Iraqis, etc. Keep in mind that the Arabs con­trol 99.9 per­cent of the Mid­dle East lands. Is­rael rep­re­sents one-tenth of 1 per­cent of the land­mass.

But that’s too much for the Arabs. They want it all. And that is ul­ti­mately what the fight­ing in Is­rael is about to­day. Greed. Pride. Envy. Cov­etous­ness. No mat­ter how many land con­ces­sions the Is­raelis make, it will never be enough.

What about Is­lam’s holy sites? There are none in Jerusalem. Shocked? You should be. I don’t ex­pect you will ever hear this bru­tal truth from any­one else in the in­ter­na­tional me­dia. It’s just not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect.

I know what you’re go­ing to say: “Farah, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem rep­re­sent Is­lam’s third-most holy sites.”

Not true. In fact, the Qu­ran says noth­ing about Jerusalem. It men­tions Mecca hun­dreds of times. It men­tions Me­d­ina count­less times. It never men­tions Jerusalem. And with good rea­son: There is no his­tor­i­cal ev­i­dence to sug­gest Muham­mad ever vis­ited Jerusalem.

So, how did Jerusalem be­come the third-holi­est site of Is­lam? Mus­lims to­day cite a vague pas­sage in the Qu­ran, the 17th Sura, en­ti­tled “The Night Jour­ney.” It re­lates that in a dream or a vi­sion, Muham­mad was car­ried by night “from the sa­cred tem­ple to the tem­ple that is most re­mote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him our signs. . . .” In the sev­enth cen­tury, some Mus­lims iden­ti­fied the two tem­ples men­tioned in this verse as be­ing in Mecca and Jerusalem. And that’s as close as Is­lam’s con­nec­tion with Jerusalem gets, myth, fan­tasy, wish­ful think­ing. Mean­while, Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem back to the days of Abra­ham.

What’s the so­lu­tion to the Mid­dle East may­hem? Well, frankly, I don’t think there is a man-made so­lu­tion to the vi­o­lence. But if there is one, it needs to be­gin with truth. Pre­tend­ing will only lead to more chaos. Treat­ing a 5,000-year-old birthright backed by over­whelm­ing his­tor­i­cal and ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence equally with il­le­git­i­mate claims, wishes and wants gives diplo­macy and peace­keep­ing a bad name.

Joseph Farah is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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