Unearthing the past for the sake of Zion

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Photo: Assaf Peretz / IAA

Generally speaking, ancient artifacts tell a particular story of a particular people. Tellingly, there are no archaeological Palestinian Arab sites – but there are plenty of Jewish ones. By unearthing and reconstructing meaning from a fragmentary past, the Israeli state is secured. Zion is very literally embedded in the mud and clay, in the strata of rock and soil.

By Richard Mather

Shortly before attempting to escape from Vichy France in 1940, the German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin wrote “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” which has been described as one of the most insightful analyses of the failure of Marxism ever produced. Benjamin, who described himself as a cultural Zionist, claimed that every generation is endowed with a “weak messianic power,” which is the power to fulfill the messianic hopes of previous generations. His vision is best represented by thesis IX, which employs Paul Klee’s painting Angelus Novus (1920) as the “Angel of History,” with his back turned against the future. Where humans see history as a linear chain of events, the Angel of History sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble.

The liberal view of history that the full meaning of freedom can be found only progressively has been a cruel illusion, especially for the Jews of Europe. The Enlightenment idea that the human condition can be improved by advances in technology, science, and social organization surely died in the gas chambers. And if Marxists see history as a class struggle that will one day culminate in a classless society, Zionists, on the other hand, tend to see history as a catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage: the Babylonian exile, the Sacking of Jerusalem, the Holocaust, and all the disasters in-between.

This is not to say that the future doesn’t matter. But it does mean that we ought to be more sceptical of progress and human perfectibility, which after the horrors of the twentieth century, are no longer tenable. Benjamin writes, “It is well-known that the Jews were forbidden to look into the future.” He adds, “The Torah and the prayers instructed them, by contrast, in remembrance.” By engaging in ritualized memory – that is, redeeming history through acts of remembrance – the future is stripped of its idolatrous magic. And the “soothsayers” who promise enlightenment inevitably lose their power to enchant the gullible.

The existence of the Nazi death camps and the Soviet gulags ought to be enough to make us incredulous towards the grand narratives of progress, enlightenment, universal reason and emancipation. Benjamin’s solution is to break with any faith in the imminence of political salvation, preferring instead to redeem fragments of the past. He offers ‘messianic time’ as an alternative temporal model to so-called historical progress. Past events are given their historical meaning retrospectively, in messianic moments. “The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer,” says Benjamin, he also comes as the “subduer” of the enemy whose historical processes crush minorities such as the Jews. The task of the (Jewish) historian, then, is to engage in a kind of tikkun olam – repairing the world by “fanning the spark of hope in the past” (to quote Benjamin), of rekindling the fragments of light buried in the wreckage. For unless the past is recognised and saved, “even the dead will not be safe from the enemy.”

This is why acts of remembering are so important in Israel. Yom HaShoah and Yom HaZikaron are two examples. And it is also why archaeology is so crucial. The metaphor of the past as an artifact that can be recovered out of the ground and recontextualized in the living present is essential to the Zionist project. Generally speaking, ancient artifacts tell a particular story of a particular people. Tellingly, there are no archaeological Palestinian Arab sites – but there are plenty of Jewish ones. By unearthing and reconstructing meaning from a fragmentary past, the Israeli state is secured. Zion is very literally embedded in the mud and clay, in the strata of rock and soil.

I started out with Benjamin’s claim that every generation is endowed with a “weak messianic power,” which is the power to fulfill the messianic hopes of previous generations. Today’s Zionists are doing just that, by uncovering artifacts in the Land of Israel. Not so long ago, a rare document mentioning the name of Jerusalem from the time of the First Temple was discovered when the Israel Antiquities Authority took action against a band of antiquities robbers who had plundered the papyrus from the Judean Desert. It is the earliest extra-biblical source to mention Jerusalem in Hebrew writing. And it is 2,700 years old.

Zionism has always been associated with redemption of the land, and the very existence of Israel (that ‘old-new land’ to quote Theodor Herzl) goes some way in rectifying the damage done to Jews by the “storm” of progress. As Benjamin states, “For we have been expected upon this earth. For it has been given us to know, just like every generation before us, a weak messianic power, on which the past has a claim.” 

 

Exposing deception: The cult of Palestinianism

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It is crucial that the Palestinian deception is exposed for what it is – an anti-Semitic, terroristic, racist cult that spreads Jew-hatred, legitimizes murder and destabilizes societies.

By Richard Mather 

The term cult usually refers to a social group defined by their religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or common interest in a particular personality, object or goal. Cults range in size from local groups with a few members to international organizations with millions. Sub-categories of cults include doomsday cults, political cults, racist cults, polygamist cults and terrorist cults.

The Palestinian movement is a political cult, but it is also a racist and terroristic cult. Its goal is the advancement of the dishonest Palestinian narrative, the destruction of the historic Jewish homeland and the implementation of a racist sharia-state called Palestine, achieved through terroristic means. Cult members, who number in the millions, deny or falsify the Jewish people’s historical, legal and biblical ties to the land of Israel. They use the weapons of delegitimization, defamation, disinformation, anti-Semitic propaganda, faked news footage, sanctions and boycotts to achieve their aims.

The Palestinianist cult can be traced back to two men: Yasser Arafat and Mohammed Amin al-Husseini. The latter is the father of Palestinian Islamic nationalism who believed it was a religious impossibility for Muslims to share the Land of Israel with Jews. Even areas where Jews formed a majority were considered to be a kind of religious defilement. Husseini, who was complicit in the Holocaust, called on his fellow Arabs to “not forget that the Jew is your worst enemy and has been the enemy of your forefathers.” Not surprisingly, his bombast resulted in various pogroms, massacres and terrorist atrocities. 

Husseini’s political successor was Yasser Arafat. From the 1960s, Arafat toured the world, converting people to his cause, acquiring recognition and financial backing until his movement was a global phenomenon. Thanks to Arafat, Palestinianism has become a ‘new religious movement’ (NRM) that appeals to people of all faiths and none, including Christians, Muslims, hardcore communist atheists, agnostics, liberals and even some Jews (who are sometimes the most fanatical converts).

This particular NRM (another term for cult) offers all the benefits of mainstream religion, such as community and social action, but without any of theological ‘baggage’ such as the Trinity, Torah or Islam’s Pillars of Faith. Even the quasi-religion of Marxism can be included within the framework of this new interfaith ideology because it, too, turns a finite, limited ideal (a world without Jews/the classless society/the end of capitalism) into an object of absolute and murderous godlike devotion. 

Paradoxically, BDS is an egalitarian cult; it is not closed, secret or hierarchical. It doesn’t matter where you come from or which god you may (or may not) worship; all that is required is that you express genocidal disdain for Jewish political autonomy. In fact, proponents of the ideology are keen to make new converts. They routinely brainwash young minds on Western university campuses, and in colleges and in mosques; their literature demonizes Jews and the Jewish state; and opponents are slandered and condemned using conspiratorial language, usually involving words like “Rothschild,” “Nazi,” and “Satanic.”

Indeed, Jews are routinely described in abusive and cult-like language (sometimes reminiscent of medieval Christian theologians): Jews as satanic murderers, baby-killers, well-poisoners, harvesters of organs and stealers of land. The charge of deicide (killing God) has been resurrected in modified form and is now presented as the charge of genocide against the so-called Palestinians. Of course, such claims made against the Jewish people are scandalous nonsense, propaganda designed to both demonise and legitimize murder. But in the minds of cult members, any justification to kill Jews or force them into permanent exile will suffice. 

This is a very dangerous cult indeed. What’s worse is that it has the backing of many governments, international organizations, NGOs and charities. It is a movement of global proportions, bigger than the Nazi cult that killed more than six million Jews. But unlike the Nazis, the Palestinianists face very little opposition. This is why it’s crucial that the Palestinian deception is repeatedly exposed for what it is – an anti-Semitic, terroristic, racist cult that spreads Jew-hatred, legitimizes murder, undermines social cohesion and destroys any prospect of peace. It is only by constantly challenging, scrutinizing and revealing the sick ideology of Palestinianism that we stand any chance of ending this horrific movement.

 

So-called Palestinians have no history in Israel – except as terrorists

Until it is acknowledged by the UN and other bodies that the Jewish people and not the Arabs are the indigenous inhabitants of Eretz Israel, it is going to be difficult to break the impasse of anti-Jewish prejudice that is the real obstacle to peace.

By Richard Mather

In 1714, Hadriani Relandi, a mapmaker from Utrecht, published Palestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata. The book was a record of Relandi’s trip to Eretz Israel in 1695-96. On his travels he surveyed around 2,500 places that were mentioned in the Tanakh and Mishnah, and he carried out a census of the people who resided in such places. He made some very interesting discoveries. For a start, he discovered that not a single settlement in Eretz Israel had a name that was of Arabic origin. Instead the names derived from Hebrew, Roman and Greek languages.

Another interesting discovery was the conspicuous absence of a sizeable Muslim population. Instead, he found that most of the inhabitants were Jews, along with some Christians and a few Bedouins. Nazareth was home to less than a thousand Christians, while Jerusalem held 5,000 people, mostly Jews. Gaza was home to around 250 Jews and about the same number of Christians.  The only exception was Nablus where around 120 Muslims lived, along with a handful of Samaritans, whose ancestors belonged to the northern tribes of Israel.

Relandi was not alone in discovering the lack of Muslims in the Land of Israel. Drawing on work by statistician and demographer Roberto Bachi, it is estimated that there were only 151,000 non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in 1540. (Some sources indicate that many of these were descendants of Jews who had remained in Palestine following the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 CE but had been forced to convert to Islam). By 1800, the non-Jewish population had grown to around 268,000, rising to 489,000 by 1890, 589,000 in 1922 and just over 1.3 million in 1948. The vast majority of these non-Jewish migrants were Muslims. All of which suggests that most of the Muslim (and Christian) inhabitants of Palestine were recent immigrants and had not been living there for generations as is sometimes suggested. Moreover, the figures show that Arab immigration was a fast-growing trend, propelled by external circumstances. But what?

Firstly, several thousand peasant farmers had come to Palestine in the first half of the 19th century to escape Egypt’s military draft, forced labor and taxes. Secondly, the Ottoman authorities transferred a great many people from Morocco, Algeria and Egypt to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century, partly in an effort to outflank Jewish immigration. Thirdly, the Zionist project was very attractive to Arabs who were drawn to Palestine by the good wages, healthcare and sanitation offered by the Jews.  Indeed, the Muslim infant mortality rate in Palestine fell from 201 per 1,000 in 1925 to 94 per 1,000 in 1945. Meanwhile, life expectancy rose from 37 to 49 years.

Furthermore, the Arab population of Palestine increased the most in cities where there were large numbers of Jews, which is a strong indication that Arabs were drawn to Palestine because of the Zionists. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population grew by 290 per cent in Haifa, 158 per cent in Jaffa and 131 per cent in Jerusalem. Tellingly, the growth in Arab-majority towns was far less dramatic: 37 per cent in Bethlehem, 42 per cent in Nablus and 78 per cent in Jenin.

During the British civil administration in Palestine (1920 to 1948), restrictions were placed on Jewish immigration in order to appease Arab troublemakers. However, the situation regarding Arab settlement was much more lax. Historian and author Freddy Liebreich claims there was significant Arab immigration from the Hauran region of Syria during the Mandate era – and that the British authorities turned a blind eye.

However, some people were taking notice. The Hope Simpson Enquiry (1930) observed  there was significant illegal Arab immigration from Egypt, Transjordan and Syria, which was negatively affecting prospective Jewish immigrants and contributing to Arab violence against Jews. The British Governor of the Sinai between 1922 and 1936 substantiated the view that unchecked Arab immigration was taking place, with most of the immigrants coming from the Sinai, Transjordan and Syria. And the Peel Commission reported in 1937 that a “shortfall of land” was “due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.”

Immigration continued at a pace until the Jews declared independence in 1948. The fact that Arab (largely Muslim) immigration continued right up until Israeli independence is borne out by the United Nations stipulation that any Arab refugee who had lived in Palestine for a mere two years prior to Jewish independence was entitled to refugee status. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency, Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

What happened to the Arab invaders of 629 CE?

If there were very few non-Jewish inhabitants in Palestine in the 16th and 17th centuries, what happened to the Arab invaders who arrived in 629 CE? Well, for a start, very few of the invaders actually stayed in Palestine. Many became absentee landlords who used native tenants to cultivate their estates and to pay the dhimmi tax. This is why Palestine, along with Egypt and Syria, remained overwhelmingly Christian for several more centuries. It is possible, however, that following the Muslim reconquest in 1187, many Jewish and Christian inhabitants of Palestine were forced to convert to Islam, thereby pushing up the number of Muslim inhabitants. However, Palestine’s population went into decline from the mid-14th century – in large part due to the Black Death, which swept in from eastern Europe and north Africa, travelling to Gaza, and making its way to Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. With no one to care for the land, many areas became malarial, especially in northern Palestine, which became largely uninhabitable. Depopulation continued as a consequence of the invasion of Palestine in 1831 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt and the ensuing Peasants’ Revolt of 1834, which reduced the male population of Palestine by about twenty per cent, with large numbers of peasants either deported to Egypt or drafted into Egypt’s military. Many others abandoned their farms and villages to join the Bedouin.

Clearly it would be futile to argue that there were no Arabs living in Eretz Israel in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, but the figures do show that the Arab population had been in state of flux for centuries and that the overwhelming majority were migrants from the rest of the Arab world and/or the Ottoman empire. This is important because it tells us that the popular notion of a deep-rooted Palestinian Arab history/culture is bogus. All the evidence points to the conspicuous absence of Arab culture in late 17th century Palestine; and even in the 18th and 19th centuries the Arab inhabitants were not indigenous but were latecomers. This explains why, historically, Arabs never talked about Palestinian identity – because there wasn’t one. They were Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi and Ottoman Arabs, and many of them expressed allegiance to the concept of a Greater Syria.

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s – nearly two decades after Israel declared independence – that a semi-coherent (and terroristic) Palestinian Arab identity came into being. Until then, the Arabs had refused to call themselves Palestinians because it was a name reserved for the Jews. When people today talk of a Arabic Palestinian culture or history, they are being disingenuous: the only Palestinian culture or history of any note is Jewish. Arabic-speaking Palestinianism started as late as the 1960s and was couched in fervently anti-Zionist and Judeophobic terms. Despite their successful efforts in deceiving the world, many Arab Palestinian leaders know the truth about the origins of their people. Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat made this very clear when he said, “The Palestinian people have no national identity. I, Yasser Arafat, man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.”

Even as late as the 1970s, the notion of a Palestinian people was still nothing more than a terrorist construct designed to undermine Jewish claims to the land of Israel. In a conversation with Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, the leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa’iqa faction of the PLO, Zuheir Mohsen, remarked: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity […] yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Why else do the people who claim to be Palestinians regularly turn down the possibility of an independent state alongside Israel? It is because the Arabs themselves don’t really believe in a State of Palestine. Their only interest is abolishing the Jewish presence between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Jewish self-determination is anathema to many Muslims who, since the time of Muhammed, have tried to keep the Jews in a state of subjugation and dhimmitude. When Arab and/or BDS protestors call for Palestine to be free “from the river to the sea,” what they are really calling for is the genocide of the Jews.

Many of the problems experienced by the State of Israel stem from something very simple but profound –  the change of name. While it is totally understandable that the leaders of the Yishuv chose the name Israel for their state (New Judea was another option), it has had unfortunate consequences. By rejecting the labels Palestine and Palestinian, the Jews circumvented their own local history and identity, and bequeathed both the name and heritage of Palestine to the Arabs. What’s worse is the fact that the latter now claim to have been the indigenous people of Palestine all along – and the world (which has always been a sucker for anti-Jewish conspiracy theories) believes it.

It is surely time to remind the Arabs and the international community that Jews are the true Palestinians. Why else would there be a Palestinian Talmud or a Jewish newspaper called The Palestine Post. Why, until the creation of Israel, were the Jews known as Palestinians? Why did philosopher Immanuel Kant refer to Jews in Europe as “the Palestinians among us”? Why did Jewish campaigners in the early 20th century produce posters calling for Jews of America to register as members of the Zionist Organisation of America “for the freedom of Palestine”? Why does the 1939 flag of Palestine have a Star of David on it?

Now some critics might say, “Well, all this may be true, but the people who claim to be Palestinians are indeed Palestinians because they say  they are and they deserve our sympathy.” The trouble is, the so-called Palestinians make no attempt to explain who they really are but continue to perpetuate the antisemitic conspiracy theory that they are the primitive and indigenous people of Palestine who were/are cruelly oppressed by the wicked Zionists. The world believes this because they are told the lie often enough and because the Israeli state has done a poor job of communicating the truth.

And because of the big Palestinian lie, Jew-hatred is now at its highest level since the end of the Second World War and the United Nations has just passed Resolution 2334, one of the most antisemitic rulings in recent years. Until it is acknowledged by the UN and other major organizations that the Jewish people are the indigenous inhabitants of Eretz Israel – from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea – it is going to be difficult to break the impasse of stubborn anti-Jewish prejudice that is the real obstacle to peace.

 

 

 

 

 

The nations hate Jews – and that’s why they want a Palestinian state

A Palestinian state is in contention only because it satisfies the world’s antisemitic bloodlust

By Richard Mather

Syria is dying, Islamists are murdering European civilians, ISIS and affiliated groups are on the rampage in the Middle East, food and water are in short supply in Africa. And so it is remarkable that the nations of the world have gathered against tiny Israel in order to dispossess Jews of what little land they have in order to create a twenty-third Arab state called Palestine.

Indeed, it is all the more remarkable when one considers the fact that the Palestinians have no historical, cultural or legal rights to the land of Israel.

That the Palestinians are endowed with so much international and economic patronage by the United Nations, the United Kingdom, the European Union and the Obama White House is testament to the world’s perpetual hatred towards the Jews. How did the Palestinians and their international backers manage to achieve such a feat? Why does the world revolve around the Palestinians?

There are several answers to this. One is the Palestinians’ cynical calculus of terror. They have learnt that violence is rewarded by the international community. Palestinians do not want a peaceful political solution, not when terrorism reaps dividends. That’s why Yasser Arafat instigated the second intifada. He did it to mask his rejection of the Camp David deal in 2000. And what happened? The world blamed Israel for the “occupation,” which garnered further sympathy for the Palestinians.

Fatah and Hamas know that terrorism focuses worldwide attention on Israel. The Palestinians  want the conflict and the boycotts to continue because they exert unbearable pressure on the Jewish state. Should a Palestinian state come into being, don’t expect terrorism to go away. On the contrary, a Palestinian state will be the launchpad for further attacks on the shrinking Jewish state.

Indeed, ethnic cleansing of the Jews is the ultimate aim of the Palestinians. A Palestinian state does not entail a peaceful political or diplomatic solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. When Palestinians and their supporters chant “Palestine will be free, from the river to the sea,” they are calling for the genocide and/or mass expulsion of millions of Israelis – not just Israelis in the so-called West Bank but Israel in its entirety.

There is another reason why the world wants a Palestinian state: it is an opportunity for the nations to eradicate thousands of years of Jewish history. Places of importance have already been appropriated by our enemies. Me’arat ha-Makhpela (the Cave of the Patriarchs) and Kever Rakhel (Rachel’s Tomb) are now considered integral to a future State of Palestine.

Worse still, the Palestinians have appropriated the Kotel – the Kotel! – as an Islamic holy site named Al-Buraq. Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has said that the Western Wall and “all its various parts, structures and gates, are an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound.”

And PA-appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Ekrima Sa’id Sabri, believes that Kotel belongs to the Muslims alone. In an interview with German magazine Die Welt, he stated: “There is not a single stone in the Wailing Wall relating to Jewish history. The Jews cannot legitimately claim this wall, neither religiously nor historically. The Committee of the League of Nations recommended in 1930, to allow the Jews to pray there, in order to keep them quiet. But by no means did it acknowledge that the wall belongs to them.”

Since it is clear that the Palestinians are not interested in peaceful co-existence with Jews; since the decay of Arab nations in the Middle East looks set to continue; since Jewish holy sites are in grave danger; and since it is highly likely that a Palestinian state will be a human rights disaster, wouldn’t it be better for the international community to put aside childish notions of a State of Palestine and lavish their time and resources on more important matters?

Evidently not. Kurdish independence, the Syrian crisis, chronic starvation in Africa, Islamic State, child sex slavery, and so on, are apparently (and shamefully) very low down on the world’s list of priorities. Given that there are so many pressing issues, it is deliberately perverse of the nations to pursue the creation of an autocratic state (or worse still an Islamist republic) called Palestine, which will be the only place on the planet that is officially Judenrein, i.e. “cleansed of Jews.”

It is clear that the world’s desire to create an antisemitic Palestinian state – regardless of the human cost and at the expense of more urgent issues – is driven by an obsessive hostility towards the Jewish people and Jewish culture, as well as a hatred for Judaism. To put it another way, it is racially and religiously-inspired antisemitic bloodlust.

 

Op-ed: UN vote may actually accelerate Israeli sovereignty in Judea-Samaria

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The Security Council votes on resolution reiterating its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities. The vote was 14 in favour, with one abstention (United States). UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

The UN condemnation of “settlement activities” may actually accelerate Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria – and rightfully so, because the correct interpretation of international law reveals the so-called settlements are, in fact, legal.

By Richard Mather – Israel News Online

The message is loud and clear. Despite residing in the land of Judea and Samaria for millennia, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 says Jews are forbidden to live on their own land. Arabs, on the other hand, are endowed with a natural entitlement to “Palestine.” The fact that the United States – under the guidance of Obama – allowed the vote to go ahead adds insult to injury.

However, it is plausible that the shameful vote at the UN may actually accelerate Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria, especially as the incoming US president, Donald Trump, is staunchly pro-Israel and will probably not oppose Israel if the Jewish state formally annexes Judea and Samaria. Naftali Bennett, Tzipi Hotovely and others are publicly calling for the application of Israeli law in most or all of the so-called West Bank.

Indeed, Hotovely sums up the mood of many Israelis and Jews when she says that “History shows there are events which create drastic changes in Israel’s response. History will remember the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2334 as the one which brought about Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria. No decision will cause Israel to stop building on its own land.”

Obama is on his way out. With nothing better to do, he should take the opportunity to educate himself on the legality of Israel’s position in Judea and Samaria, as well as in east Jerusalem.

Israel’s appropriation of land is both practically and legally comprehensible. If Obama knew his history (and he obviously doesn’t), he would already know that the “West Bank” is unclaimed land. Contrary to popular opinion, Israeli settlements are entirely legal as long as they are within the parameters of the 1922 Mandate of Palestine. This is the same mandate that legalized and encouraged the immigration of Jews to all parts of historic Israel.

Israel’s critics may be surprised to know that the 1922 Mandate has never been superseded in international law, not even by the United Nation’s 1947 partition plan. Because the Arabs refused to recognize the partition of “Palestine,” the legal status of Judea and Samaria reverted back to the 1922 law . The capture of Judea and Samaria from Jordan in 1967 was the first step in the restoration of the territory’s true legal status. It also means that Israel’s settlements are actually the fulfilment of the original 1922 Mandate.

Quoting the Fourth Geneva Convention to argue that the settlements are in fact illegal is nonsensical. The Fourth Geneva Convention pertains only to cases of occupation of a sovereign entity. Because of the Arab refusal to reach an agreement between 1947 and 1949, the area popularly referred to as the West Bank never became the legal territory of any sovereign entity – not even Jordan, despite its occupation of the territory until 1967. Only Israel has a legal entitlement to Judea and Samaria.

If anyone is in any doubt, they would do well to consult a document boasting the signatures of over 1,000 respected diplomats and legal experts from around the world, ranging from South Africa and Canada to Norway and Brazil. The file was delivered to the EU’s then foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in the form of a petition around three years ago.

According to these legal experts, it is factually incorrect to refer to the settlements as illegal for the simple reason that the term “1967 lines” does not exist in international law. The pre-1967 lines are in fact 1949 armistice lines, and are not recognized lines or security lines. Moreover, the issue of borders is on the agenda of the peace talks and is subject to final status negotiations.

All of which means that the Palestinian/UN claim that Palestinian statehood is an unassailable right should not be taken at face value. Arab hatred of Israel has never been about the settlements or even about land. The primary obstacle is an ideological refusal to recognize the Jewish people’s deep-rooted historic, cultural and legal connections to the entire land of Israel.

Jews have an inalienable and legal right to live in east Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and no number of sordid anti-Jewish UN resolutions can change this fact.

Palestinianism: When people of all faiths (and none) conspire against Israel

People who call for Jews to be exiled from the Land of Israel are evangelists for a new quasi-religion called Palestinianism, which has positioned itself as the most contemporary of interfaith ideologies.

For Christians, Muslims, atheists and even radical left-wing Jews, Palestinianism offers a new kind of replacement theology in which Palestine is the True Israel and Israeli Jews are cast out of the family of nations because they remain loyal to their historic homeland.

By Richard Mather  

Replacement theology or supersessionism is the Christian teaching that the Church has replaced Israel regarding the plan, purpose and promises of God. It has been a core tenet of the Christian faith for the best part of 2,000 years and it holds that the Church replaced the Israelites/Jews as the Chosen People and that the New Covenant replaced God’s covenant with Moses.

From very early on, the Church Fathers taught that the Mosaic Covenant had been fulfilled and replaced by Christ. Tertullian, for example, taught that the “old law” and “carnal circumcision” had been “obliterated” by the “new law.” One of the implications of this theological standpoint is that the Jews are seen as an accursed people stubbornly clinging to an outmoded set of rituals that serve no divine purpose.

In fact, so the argument goes, just by continuing to exist, the Jews are recalcitrant sinners. Worse, their refusal to embrace Christ is an obstacle to God’s salvational plan for the world.

After the Shoah, some Christian theologians started to de-emphasise supersessionism. But replacement theology has never gone away. Far from it. In fact, it has re-emerged in a new guise, with all the evangelical fervor of a brand new religion. That religion is Palestinianism. I don’t just mean Christian Palestinianism which ludicrously seeks to “de-Zionize” the Tanakh and “Palestinianize” Jesus. Nor do I merely mean the Islamic tendency to use the Palestinian issue as a recruiting sergeant in the mosques.

Rather, I am talking about Palestinianism in its fullest sense: a wide-ranging quasi-religious ideology that appeals to all faiths and none. It appeals to Christians, Muslims, and even some Jews. It appeals to hardcore communist atheists and religious fanatics alike. It is the belief system of anti-Semitic movements like BDS and the International Solidarity Movement. It is a unifying belief system that blames all the world’s problems on the Jews and promises salvation by promising to eradicate Zionism and establish a State of Palestine between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

This new religion can be traced back to one man – Yasser Arafat, Palestinianism’s anti-apostle to the nations. Arafat toured the world, converting people to his cause, acquiring recognition and financial backing until his movement was a global phenomenon. As with Christianity, Palestinianism has become an almost-universal faith that appeals to gentiles and even some Jews, who are usually the most fanatical converts. It is because of Arafat (with the help of the Soviet Union) that contemporary Zionism is portrayed in much the same way that the Mosaic Covenant was/is depicted by some Christians – as corrupt, outdated, superstitious, carnal, evil.

II

Following Emperor Constantine’s declaration of Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire, theologians began to teach that Jews were solely responsible for the crime of murdering God, of deicide. John Chrysostrom (354-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, stated that Jews were murderers and destroyers, a people “possessed by the devil.”

If hostility to the Torah motivated early anti-Semitism, it was the Talmud that soon became an object of anti-Jewish hate. Full-scale attacks on the Talmud began in France during the thirteenth century. The Talmud was said to make Jews stubborn and superstitious. If only the Jews would relinquish their superstitious rituals, argued their opponents, then they’d convert to Christianity and conform to societal norms.

In the midst of all this anti-Talmud hysteria, Christian anti-Semites were accusing Jews of using the blood of Christian children for ritual purposes. It began in England in 1144 when the Jews of Norwich were accused of ritual murder after a boy was found dead with stab wounds. Thomas of Monmouth erroneously claimed that there was a Jewish prophecy that stated the killing of a Christian child each year would ensure Jewish restoration in Eretz Yisrael. This must be one of the earliest instances of a Jew-hater using the blood libel to smear the Jews for their dream of national restoration. In fact, the blood libel, or variations thereof, continue to this day.

After Israel committed the cardinal sin of winning the 1967 Six Day War, Jews have been routinely described in the language of medieval Christian theologians: Jews as satanic murderers, baby-killers, well-poisoners, harvesters of organs and stealers of land. The charge of deicide has been resurrected in modified form and is now presented as the charge of genocide against Palestinians. Of course, such claims made against the Jewish people are scandalous nonsense, propaganda designed to demonise and then to kill. But in the minds of Palestinianists, any justification to kill Jews or force them into permanent exile will suffice.

So: First the Torah and the polemical arguments against the Mosaic covenant; then the Talmud and the blood libel as justifications for persecuting Jews. Now, the object of hate is Zionism and the State of Israel. Under the banner of the new Palestinianist theology, Palestine is portrayed as the True Israel, just like the Church was described as the True Israel.

While Christian covenant theologians claim that Jews have been cast off and are no longer pre-eminent in the plans of God because they continue to abide by their Mosaic traditions, so the State of Israel is to be cast out of the family of nations because it stubbornly clings to the “carnal covenant” of Zionism. There is an eschatological aspect at play that demands the passing away of the old heaven and earth (Zionism) and the arrival of the new heaven and earth (the State of Palestine).

The sooner Zionism and the Israeli state pass into history, say the Palestinianists, the sooner there will be peace in the Middle East. Despite the obvious drawbacks to this scenario, such as the oppression of women and minorities in a Palestinian state, the imprisonment of journalists and dissidents, and the political legitimisation of far right Islamist groups like Hamas, Palestinianists remain zealous in their commitment to the creation of a twenty-third Arab state.

III

And then there are the Jewish apostates. Once upon a time we had to endure people like Titus Flavius Josephus, the writer-historian who defected to the Romans in 69 CE during the First Roman-Jewish War; and Nicholas Donin, a Jewish convert to Christianity, who pressed thirty-five charges against the Talmud to Pope Gregory IX; and Abner of Burgos, the fourteenth-century Jewish philosopher who converted to Christianity and wrote Mostrador de Justicia, one of the longest polemics against Judaism ever written.

Now we have people like Ilan Pappe, Paul Eisen, Shlomo Sand, and Noam Chomsky, who spend their days writing anti-Zionist and/or anti-Jewish polemics in order to ingratiate themselves to the non-Jewish world. It seems that some Jews, both then and now, are unable to resist the lure of either Christianity or Palestinianism.

(To complicate matters, there are some very religious Jews who believe that continued exile is part of God’s plan. The Christian view that the destruction of the Second Temple was a punishment for killing Christ has been absorbed in a modified way by some ultra-Orthodox Jews such as Neturei Karta who believe that because of their sins, the Jewish people went into exile and that human recapture of the Land of Israel is a violation of divine will. If Christians believe in replacement theology, it seems some Jews, both religious and secular, subscribe to what might be called displacement theology – the displacement of themselves.)

Because it appeals to many Christians, most Muslims and a minority of Jews, Palestinianism is the latest example of the postmodern exercise in interbelief cooperation, which can be defined as the (de)constructive interaction between people of different religious traditions and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs. In a sense, Palestinianism is the most democratic and egalitarian of faiths. It doesn’t matter where you come from or which god you may (or may not) worship; all that is required is that you express genocidal disdain for Jewish political autonomy.

Indeed, Palestinianism is now a substitute faith for post-Christian European liberals. It offers all the benefits of mainstream religion, such as community and social action, but without any of theological baggage such as the Trinity or Islam’s Pillars of Faith. Even the quasi-religion of Marxism can be included within the framework of this new interfaith ideology because it, too, turns a finite, limited ideal (a world without Zionism/the classless society/the end of capitalism) into an object of absolute and murderous godlike devotion.

Given that Palestinianism draws on Christianity and Islam, it is perhaps no surprise that it borrows heavily from Abrahamic salvation history. This helps explain the Palestinianist preoccupation with the status and fate of the Jews, with ownership and boundaries of the land of Israel, with the importance of Jerusalem, with the identity of Jesus, and with the messianic goal of peace in the Middle East. Even the concept of “original sin” is employed to describe the creation of the State of Israel, as if pre-Zionist Palestine was the Garden of Eden!

In other words, Palestinianism offers the world a set of religious symbols that are reassuringly infused with the comfort of Bible imagery (“new wine in old skins”). Hence the myth of a Palestinian lineage that goes all the way back to the Canaanites; the “Satanic” intrusion of Zionism; the “crucifixion” of Palestine and the arrival of “Isra-hell”; and the awaited return of Palestine as a land of milk and honey. All these concepts and word-ideas are used in Palestinianist discourse.

In this salvation story, the Jews may have a role to play, but only as a people who are about to be expunged from history as the prelude to the arrival of a new world. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Salvation is of the Jews.” But for many people – Christian, Muslim or atheist – it seems that salvation is not of the Jews, but of the Palestinians. It is a terrifying thought.

Whose land is it anyway? A survey of immigration into pre-state Israel

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By Richard Mather

There is an old and rare book called Palestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, written by Hadriani Relandi (a mapmaker and scholar from Utrecht) and published in 1714. It documents Relandi’s trip to Eretz Israel/Palestine in 1695-96. On his travels he surveyed around 2,500 places that were mentioned in the Tanakh and/or Mishnah, and he carried out a census of the people who resided in such places. He made some very interesting discoveries. For a start, he discovered that not a single settlement in Palestine had a name that was of Arabic origin. Instead the names derived from Hebrew, Roman and Greek languages.

Another interesting discovery was the conspicuous absence of a sizeable Muslim population. Instead, he found that most of the inhabitants of Palestine were Jews, along with some Christians and a few Bedouins. Nazareth was home to less than a thousand Christians, while Jerusalem held 5,000 people, mostly Jews. Gaza was home to around 250 Jews and about the same number of Christians.  The only exception was Nablus where around 120 Muslims lived, along with a handful of Samaritans, whose ancestors belonged to the northern tribes of Israel.

Intrigued by the findings in Relandi’s book, I looked at other first-hand sources, such as travelogs, governmental reports and censuses. I wasn’t sure I would find anything. But there is a surprising quantity of data and anecdotal evidence. And all the evidence suggests that the majority of non-Jewish (i.e. Arab Muslim and Christian) immigration to Palestine began in the mid or late 1800s.

Drawing on work by statistician and demographer Roberto Bachi, it is estimated that there were 151,000 non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in 1540. (Some sources indicate that many of these were descendants of Jews who had remained in Palestine following the failed Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 CE but had been forced to convert to Islam). By 1800, the non-Jewish population had grown to around 268,000, rising to 489,000 by 1890, 589,000 in 1922 and just over 1.3 million in 1948. The vast majority of these non-Jewish migrants were Muslims. All of which suggests that most of the Muslim (and Christian) inhabitants of Palestine were recent immigrants and had not been living there for generations as is sometimes suggested. Moreover, the figures show that Arab immigration was a fast-growing trend, propelled by external circumstances. But what?

Firstly, several thousand peasant farmers had come to Palestine in the first half of the 19th century to escape Egypt’s military draft, forced labor and taxes. Secondly, the Ottoman authorities transferred a great many people from Morocco, Algeria and Egypt to Palestine in the early part of the 20th century, partly in an effort to outflank Jewish immigration. Thirdly, the Zionist project was very attractive to Arabs who were drawn to Palestine by the good wages, healthcare and sanitation offered by the Jews.  Indeed, the Muslim infant mortality rate in Palestine fell from 201 per 1,000 in 1925 to 94 per 1,000 in 1945. Meanwhile, life expectancy rose from 37 to 49 years.

Furthermore, the Arab population of Palestine increased the most in cities where there were large numbers of Jews, which is a strong indication that Arabs were drawn to Palestine because of the Zionists. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population grew by 290 per cent in Haifa, 158 per cent in Jaffa and 131 per cent in Jerusalem. Tellingly, the growth in Arab-majority towns was far less dramatic: 37 per cent in Bethlehem, 42 per cent in Nablus and 78 per cent in Jenin.

During the British civil administration in Palestine (1920 to 1948), restrictions were placed on Jewish immigration in order to appease Arab troublemakers. However, the situation regarding Arab settlement was much more lax. Historian and author Freddy Liebreich claims there was significant Arab immigration from the Hauran region of Syria during the Mandate era – and that the British authorities turned a blind eye.

However, some people were taking notice. The Hope Simpson Enquiry (1930) observed  there was significant illegal Arab immigration from Egypt, Transjordan and Syria, which was negatively affecting prospective Jewish immigrants and contributing to Arab violence against Jews. The British Governor of the Sinai between 1922 and 1936 substantiated the view that unchecked Arab immigration was taking place, with most of the immigrants coming from the Sinai, Transjordan and Syria. And the Peel Commission reported in 1937 that a “shortfall of land” was “due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.”

Immigration continued at a pace until the Jews declared independence in 1948. The fact that Arab (largely Muslim) immigration continued right up until Israeli independence is borne out by the United Nations stipulation that any Arab refugee who had lived in Palestine for a mere two years prior to Jewish independence was entitled to refugee status. According to the UN Relief and Works Agency, Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

*

If there were very few non-Jewish inhabitants in Palestine in the 16th and 17th centuries, what happened to the Arab invaders who arrived in 629 CE? Well, for a start, very few of the invaders actually stayed in Palestine. Many became absentee landlords who used native tenants to cultivate their estates and to pay the dhimmi tax. This is why Palestine, along with Egypt and Syria, remained overwhelmingly Christian for several more centuries. It is possible, however, that following the Muslim reconquest in 1187, many Jewish and Christian inhabitants of Palestine were forced to convert to Islam, thereby pushing up the number of Muslim inhabitants. However, Palestine’s population went into decline from the mid-14th century – in large part due to the Black Death, which swept in from eastern Europe and north Africa, travelling to Gaza, and making its way to Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. With no one to care for the land, many areas became malarial, especially in northern Palestine, which became largely uninhabitable. Depopulation continued as a consequence of the invasion of Palestine in 1831 by Muhammad Ali of Egypt and the ensuing Peasants’ Revolt of 1834, which reduced the male population of Palestine by about twenty per cent, with large numbers of peasants either deported to Egypt or drafted into Egypt’s military. Many others abandoned their farms and villages to join the Bedouin.

Clearly it would be futile to argue that there were few Arabs living in Palestine in the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, but the figures do show that the Arab population of Palestine had been in state of flux for centuries and that the overwhelming majority were migrants from the rest of the Arab world and/or the Ottoman empire. This is important because it tells us that the postmodern notion of a deep-rooted Palestinian Arab history/culture is bogus. All the evidence points to the conspicuous absence of Arab culture in late 17th century Palestine; and even in the 18th and 19th centuries the Arab inhabitants of Palestine were not indigenous but were latecomers. This explains why, historically, Arabs never talked about Palestinian identity – because there wasn’t one. They were Egyptian, Syrian, Moroccan, Iraqi and Ottoman Arabs, and many of them expressed allegiance to the concept of a Greater Syria.

*

It wasn’t until the mid-1960s – nearly two decades after Israel declared independence – that a semi-coherent (and very violent) Palestinian Arab identity came into being. Until then, the Arabs had refused to call themselves Palestinians because it was a name reserved for the Jews. When people talk of a Arabic Palestinian culture or history, they are being disingenuous: the only Palestinian culture or history of any note is Jewish. Arabic-speaking Palestinianism started as late as the 1960s and was couched in fervently anti-Zionist and Judeophobic terms. Despite their successful efforts in deceiving the world, many Arab Palestinian leaders know the truth about the origins of their people. Egyptian-born Yasser Arafat made this very clear when he said, “The Palestinian people have no national identity. I, Yasser Arafat, man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.”

Even as late as the 1970s, the notion of a Palestinian people was still nothing more than a terrorist construct designed to undermine Jewish claims to the land of Israel. In a conversation with Dutch newspaper Trouw in March 1977, the leader of the pro-Syria as-Sa’iqa faction of the PLO, Zuheir Mohsen, remarked: “It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity […] yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Why else do the people who claim to be Palestinians regularly turn down the possibility of an independent state alongside Israel? It’s because the Arabs themselves don’t really believe in a State of Palestine. Their only interest is abolishing the ample Jewish presence between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. Jewish self-determination is anathema to many Muslims who, since the time of Muhammed, have tried to keep the Jews in a state of subjugation and dhimmitude. When Arab and/or BDS protestors call for Palestine to be free “from the river to the sea,” what they are really calling for is the genocide of the Jews.

Many of the problems experienced by the State of Israel stem from something very simple but profound –  the change of name. While it is totally understandable that the leaders of the Yishuv chose the name Israel for their state (New Judea was another option), it has had unfortunate consequences. By rejecting the labels Palestine and Palestinian, the Jews circumvented their own local history and identity, and bequeathed both the name and heritage of Palestine to the Arabs. So we are now in a perverse situation where the indigenous Semites of Palestine call themselves Israelis and the people who flocked from the Ottoman and Arab regions call themselves Palestinians. What’s worse is the fact that the latter now claim to have been the indigenous people of Palestine all along – and the world (which has always been a sucker for conspiracy theories) believes it.

It is surely time to remind the Arabs and the international community that Jews are the true Palestinians. Why else would there be a Palestinian Talmud or a Jewish newspaper called The Palestine Post. Why, until the creation of Israel, were the Jews known as Palestinians? Why did philosopher Immanuel Kant refer to Jews in Europe as “the Palestinians among us”? Why did Jewish campaigners in the early 20th century produce posters calling for Jews of America to register as members of the Zionist Organisation of America “for the freedom of Palestine”? Why does the 1939 flag of Palestine have a Star of David on it?

Now some critics might say, “Well, all this may be true,  but the people who claim to be Palestinians are indeed Palestinians because they say  they are and they deserve our sympathy.” The trouble is, the so-called Palestinians make no attempt to explain who they really are but continue to perpetuate the antisemitic conspiracy theory that they are the primitive and indigenous people of Palestine who were/are cruelly oppressed by the wicked Zionists. The world believes this because they are told the lie often enough and because the Israeli state has done a poor job of communicating the truth.

And because of the big Palestinian lie, Jew-hatred is now at its highest level since the end of the Second World War. Given that the Palestinians themselves are unlikely to admit to themselves and to the world that Palestinianism is an antisemitic hoax,  it is down to us to do it for them.