A His­to­rian Coun­ters Men­dac­ity with Pow­er­ful Satire in New Book on Pales­tinian Past

The Jewish Voice - - BOOK REVIEW - By: Ari Lieber­man

There have been many books writ­ten on Pales­tinian iden­tity and history but none are as schol­arly and au­thor­i­ta­tive as As­saf A. Voll’s “A History of the Pales­tinian Peo­ple, From An­cient Times to the Mod­ern Era.” Voll’s ex­haus­tive ac­count of Pales­tinian history is summed up in 120 fact-filled pages brim­ming with sub­stan­tive in­for­ma­tion that most will find use­ful.

Univer­sity stu­dents work­ing un­der harsh time con­straints will find the book par­tic­u­larly suit­able be­cause it can be read cover-to-cover in a mat­ter of sec­onds. That’s be­cause all the pages are blank save for a quote in the be­gin­ning of the book at­trib­uted to the Se­in­feld char­ac­ter Ge­orge Costanza – “Just re­mem­ber, it’s not a lie if you be­lieve it.”

One com­i­cal re­viewer at Ama­zon amus­ingly noted that the Voll’s book was pla­gia­rized. “The work is iden­ti­cal to the book, Every­thing Men Know About Women: 25th An­niver­sary Edi­tion,” said the re­viewer. The re­viewer is cor­rect but the au­thor’s trans­gres­sion is mi­nor com­pared to fan­tas­ti­cal men­dac­ity prop­a­gated by those pre­tend­ing to be his­to­ri­ans and aca­demics at some of the world’s top uni­ver­si­ties.

The no­tion of “Pales­tinian history” is far­ci­cal and Voll’s un­der­stated but il­lu­mi­nat­ing point un­abashedly ex­poses this ab­ject lie. The name “Pales­tine” is an in­vented name con­cocted by the Ro­man Em­peror Hadrian.

In 132 CE, the Jews of Judea (al­ter­na­tively known as Eretz Is­rael) launched an open re­volt against Ro­man oc­cu­pa­tion of their land. Led by its charis­matic leader, Si­mon Bar Kochva, the anti-Ro­man in­sur­gency nearly suc­ceeded, as ev­i­denced by ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies and his­tor­i­cal ac­counts but was ul­ti­mately sup­pressed some three years later af­ter in­tense and bit­ter fight­ing.

Hadrian was keenly aware and un­der­stood that the Jews could never be de­feated by force of arms alone. He be­lieved that in or­der to de­feat the Jews, he needed to break their spirit as well. He there­fore em­barked on a bit­ter cam­paign of sev­er­ing the Jew­ish nexus to the Land of Is­rael. Among his many cruel edicts was the re­nam­ing of the city of Jerusalem to “Aelia Capi­tolina” and the Land of Is­rael to “Pales­tine.” While the for­mer name was never ac­cepted, the lat­ter abom­inable re­nam­ing un­for­tu­nately stuck and over time sup­planted the land’s his­tor­i­cal and orig­i­nal nam­ing.

To be clear, there has never in the history of mankind been a Pales­tinian state, a Pales­tinian cap­i­tal, a dis­tinct Pales­tinian lan­guage, cur­rency or cul­ture. In De­cem­ber 2011, Newt Gin­grich noted this in­dis­putable fact and made the fol­low­ing ob­ser­va­tion;

“Re­mem­ber there was no Pales­tine as a state. It was part of the Ot­toman Em­pire. And I think that we've had an in­vented Pales­tinian peo­ple, who are in fact Arabs, and were his­tor­i­cally part of the Arab com­mu­nity…”

Gin­grich was widely crit­i­cized for his po­lit­i­cally in­cor­rect but his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate state­ment but none of his crit­ics were able to up­end the ve­rac­ity of his com­ment. Iron­i­cally, Arab lead­ers have oc­ca­sion­ally voiced opin­ions sim­i­lar to those ex­pressed by Gin­grich. Those opin­ions were of course made in Ara­bic to Ara­bic au­di­ences but they were none­the­less made.

n a re­veal­ing 1977 in­ter­view with the Dutch news­pa­per Trouw, PLO ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­ber Zahir Muh­sein stated,

“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. Only for po­lit­i­cal and tac­ti­cal rea­sons do we speak to­day about the ex­is­tence of a Pales­tinian peo­ple, since Arab na­tional in­ter­ests de­mand that we posit the ex­is­tence of a dis­tinct 'Pales­tinian peo­ple' to op­pose Zion­ism.

For tac­ti­cal rea­sons, Jor­dan, which is a sov­er­eign state with de­fined bor­ders, can­not raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Pales­tinian, I can un­doubt­edly de­mand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. How­ever, the mo­ment we re­claim our right to all of Pales­tine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Pales­tine and Jor­dan.”

In 2012, a Gaza-based Ha­mas gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial named Fathi Ham­mad noted the fol­low­ing while plead­ing for Egyp­tian oil;

“Ev­ery Pales­tinian… through­out Pales­tine can prove his Arab roots, whether from Saudi Ara­bia or Yemen or any­where… per­son­ally, half my fam­ily is Egyp­tian, we are all like that.” Ham­mad con­tin­ued, “Broth­ers, half the Pales­tini­ans are Egyp­tian and the other half are Saudis…Who are the Pales­tini­ans?” he asked rhetor­i­cally. “We have fam­i­lies called al-Masri whose roots are Egyp­tian, Egyp­tian! We are Egyp­tian! We are Arab! We are Mus­lim!” Ham­mad’s rant was cu­ri­ously and con­spic­u­ously de­void of any ref­er­ence to an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian iden­tity and that is be­cause there sim­ply isn’t any.

As Zahir Muh­sein can­didly notes, the no­tion of Pales­tinian na­tion­al­ism be­gan as a tac­tic fol­low­ing the Arab de­feat of 1948. Prior to that time, most Arabs liv­ing in manda­tory Pales­tine thought of them­selves as either sub­jects of the Ot­toman Em­pire or cit­i­zens of Greater Syria. The rest were tran­sient work­ers from the vast Arab and Mus­lim ex­panse lured to the area by bet­ter for­tunes fos­tered as a re­sult of in­creased Jew­ish eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity and busi­ness ex­pan­sion. (Front Page Mag)

Arabs re­sid­ing in Gaza and the so-called West Bank from 1948 to 1967 had no prob­lem liv­ing un­der Egyp­tian and Jor­da­nian oc­cu­pa­tion. But the very no­tion of Jews oc­cu­py­ing a cen­time­ter of “Arab soil” was con­sid­ered an abom­i­na­tion and an af­front to Arab and Mus­lim honor.

As­saf Voll’s satir­i­cal ac­count of Pales­tinian history is a book about noth­ing. It is nev­er­the­less a force­ful re­pu­di­a­tion of those in academia, the me­dia and else­where wish­ing to per­pet­u­ate his­tor­i­cal in­ac­cu­ra­cies to ad­vance men­da­cious nar­ra­tives. If there is to be a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the Arab-Is­raeli con­flict, we must start by rec­og­niz­ing and ac­knowl­edg­ing cer­tain un­wa­ver­ing and per­haps un­pleas­ant truths, and chief among them is the myth of Pales­tinian history.

The no­tion of “Pales­tinian history” is far­ci­cal and Voll’s un­der­stated but il­lu­mi­nat­ing point un­abashedly ex­poses this ab­ject lie

(FRONT PAGE MAG)

There have been many books writ­ten on Pales­tinian iden­tity and history but none are as schol­arly and au­thor­i­ta­tive as As­saf A. Voll’s “A History of the Pales­tinian Peo­ple, From An­cient Times to the Mod­ern Era.” Voll’s ex­haus­tive ac­count of Pales­tinian history is summed up in 120 fact- filled pages brim­ming with sub­stan­tive in­for­ma­tion that most will find use­ful.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.