The right side of history
The right side of historyiStock
Note: The following is satire. I feel compelled to add this disclaimer because in today’s world, it’s impossible to tell anymore.
Today, Israel finds itself more isolated than ever from the international community. The world at large has been highly critical of the way Israel has responded to the terror attacks intended to destroy the country and commit genocide on all its Jewish inhabitants. Such criticism goes beyond their objection to questionable Jewish practices such as not wanting to be murdered and touches on the very nature of Israel’s relationship with the Palestinian Arabs with whom it is at war.
Time and again Israel, in dealing with the Palestinian Arabs, has engaged in a pattern of behavior that many in the international community see as the major obstacle to peace. Israel refuses to accept the existence of a "Palestine" and the Palestinian Arabs as a people, for no other reason than that neither exists.
Historically the myth of "Palestine" was created in 1964, essentially set up by the KGB when the USSR realized that Israel was allied to the West after the 1956 Suez War. To put things intok historical context, the Belgium cartoonist Pierre Culliford, better known by the pseudonym Peyo created the Smurfs in 1958. "Palestine" was not created until 1964, six years later. This means that as a people, the Smurfs are older than the Palestinian "people".
So far, Israeli leaders intend on clinging to facts, zealously holding onto reality. And as the world has made abundantly clear, reality has never played a role in its relationship with Israel. As such, Israel's almost fanatical devotion to the truth has made it an international pariah.
Israel’s obsession with reality becomes more troubling once it’s put into its proper context. Not only has Israel rejected the myth of a "Palestine" or a Palestinian Arab "people" unlike the rest of the world, Israel rejects the very idea of making political policy based on imaginary creatures.
Consider elves and fairies. In Ireland in 1999 a road’s construction was delayed for ten years and ultimately rerouted to protect a tree said to be inhabited by fairies. Similarly, in 2013, Iceland rerouted a road after its proposed course cut through a lava field said to be home to the local elf community, known as huldufólk. In Iceland, road construction and new buildings are often not even begun until it can be ascertained that no elves will be disturbed.
Iceland is fact known to be a world leader in protecting its elfish citizens. elf shrines (small altars, sometimes with candles) and rocks known for their elf activities are protected sites in most cities. Posted signs warn travelers of the elf-controlled territories Locals often enter into business relationships with their local magical community in order to appease them. At times, citizens even build specialized elf homes to better accommodate their diminutive neighbors. The Icelandic Elf School located in Reykjavík teaches natives and visitors alike the proper way to respect their supernatural demographic.
Shockingly, in its entire history, Israel has never made a single concession to its fairy and elf communities. Never in the nation’s history has any policy or undertaking ever been changed to accommodate elves. Not a single road has been changed, not a single house torn down. Seemingly as a matter of official policy, Israel has refused to make compromises to better the lives of its hidden people.
Or consider Portland Oregon, that proud city, or what’s left of it. A long-time champion of equality and inclusion, even at the expense of intelligence, Portland is home to the nation’s only leprechaun colony. According to the legend, in 1948 journalist at the Oregon Journal caught a leprechaun named Patrick O'Toole who established a small park in between two roads in the city's downtown. The park was dedicated on St. Patrick's Day, 1976, as "the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland." According to legend, the leprechauns are only visible to humans at midnight during a full moon on St. Patrick's Day and even then only to children bearing four-leaf clovers as gifts.
To its shame, Israel to this day has refused to even consider establishing a colony for its own leprechaun population. It has refused to even enter into negations on the subject of ceding land to leprechauns, or to any other of the Irish fairy folk. It would appear that it’s not only the Palestinian Arabs that Israel wants to deny the right to settle.
It's not only humanoid fantasy creatures that Israel continues to oppress. In Scotland, the noble unicorn is honored as the nation's national animal. It's a bold step in the recognition of pretend creatures everywhere. In North Korea, the always believable Korean Central News Agency recently shared the amazing news that archaeologists in Pyongyang have discovered a unicorn's lair. Researchers claim to have found the lair of a unicorn ridden by King Tongmyong, a monarch from Korea's Koryo Kingdom. the site is said back to (918-1392)," the report said.
It may come as no surprise that Israel presently refused to do anything to honor unicorns, or indeed any magical creatures. The lack of respect shown to enchanted creatures is an ongoing disgrace to the supposedly modern nation. Likewise, is its inability to acknowledge and celebrate archeological finds related to mythical beasts for no other reason than that there aren’t any.
When put into this context, Israel’s relations with the Palestinian Arabs take a new, much darker angle. Rather than simply being a conflict against a group of people that want to commit mass genocide, Israel’s rejection of the Palestinian Arab "people" is part of a large problem, namely, Israeli refusal to recognize made-up peoples everywhere. Israel's rejection of the Palestinian Arabs is nothing less than part of an ongoing and systemic refusal to reject reality.
This behavior is simply unacceptable to the modern civilized world. Any progressive nation would rightly consider rejecting a people based on race, skin color, or religion as unacceptably racist. Equally, Israel has shown a clear prejudice in denying the Palestinian Arab "people" for no other reason than because of their being unreal.
In this context, it makes perfect sense why so many countries have recognized a Palestinian Arab state or plan to do so. It’s nothing if not consistent behavior. It’s part of their long, proud history of believing in fictional beings.
Certainly, the Palestinian Arabs are as fictional as any of the peoples just mentioned and therefore deserve the same respect from Israel that other countries offer to their make-believe people. After all, the status of the Palestinian Arabs as an imaginary people is unquestionable.
Denying that there was ever a nation of Palestine is like denying that there ever was a Land of Tír na nÓg, the Celtic fairy world of eternal youth. Both have the same historical accuracy. The word “Palestine” was first invented by the Roman Emperor Hadrian after the Bar Kochva Revolt in 136 CE. The Romans, aiming to sever the Jewish connection to the land, renamed Judea as "Syria Palaestina," invoking the name of the ancient Philistia, the home base of the Philistines, a historic enemy of the Jews. This was part of a systematic effort to suppress Jewish identity and culture in their ancestral homeland. Prophetically the word Philistia translates as “invaders.”
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the region changed hands a number of times. It was annexed each new empire, without the name of Palestine even being mentioned. The Roman name was entirely forgotten by each new conqueror. No one called the area Palestine or themselves Palestinians for more than a millennium and a half.
While some European nations made occasional references to a place called Palestine, they did so because they were writing mainly in Latin and thus, they used the Latin name. Then too, it denoted to a geographic region, such as the Midwest or the Transjordan. Never was it used to describe a people or kingdom. It’s actually somewhat surprising that Europe then refused to recognize a Palestine, since at that time it did believe in such mystical kingdoms as Avalon, Atlantis, and Thule.
Even the Muslim Ottoman Empire which ruled this land for 400 years never mentioned a "Palestine". The Arab rulers called the province 'The Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem' (Şerif Mutasarrıflığı). Before that, it was called 'Sanjak (Province) of Damascus'. The Ottoman Sultan, also the Caliph of Islam, never called it "Palestine" or ever mentioned Palestinians as a nation.
It’s hardly surprising. After all, he couldn’t. There is no "P" in written or spoken Arabic. If they were a legitimate people with a legitimate homeland that existed for thousands of years, one wonders why would they name themselves and their alleged homeland something that they could not say or write in their native language. (In relation to works of fiction, this is known as a “plot hole.”)
The word “Palestine” was reintroduced into the popular lexicon by the British following the First World War. When the war ended, the victorious Allies divided the formerly Ottoman Near East into new political units. The victorious powers agreed upon "Palestine" as the name of the mandate given to Britain in 1920 at the Sanremo conference, to highlight that it was no longer under Arab control. The region they governed was much broader than any claims to modern-day "Palestine", and larger too than the entire modern state of Israel.
Like earlier Europeans, the British never suggested that "Palestine" be regarded as an actual kingdom or people. Like the “Levant” it was an approximate historical geographical term used to encompass an area and everything that was in it. Because that was the excepted name of the area, any work done it was considered as being “in Palestine”. Under British rule, the residents of "Palestine," both modern-day Israel and Jordan, both Arab and Jewish, were referred to as "Palestinians." Numerous items from that period bear the name "Palestine".
Even Jews used the term until the establishment of the State of Israel when they changed the name to reflect the reality that there was a re-establishment of sovereignty. Had the Israelis been smarter, they would have known not to base the name on reality and call themselves something more acceptable, such as “New Candyland”
Just as there never was a Palestinian nation, unsurprisingly there never was a Palestinian Arab people. Muslims first appeared in the region as conquerors. The Sassanid Persians first took control over Jerusalem in 614 CE. In 638 CE. Jerusalem was captured by the caliph Omar, marking the first time that an Arab leader set foot in the Holy City. Jews originally welcomed the Arab invaders, hoping that they would be a more peaceful option than the Byzantines. They were sadly mistaken, and what followed was decades of oppression by various Muslim rulers, ending with the Ottoman Empire.
Even while they controlled the region, very few Muslims actually chose to emigrate and live in it. In 1799 it was estimated to be no more than 250,000 to 300,000 inhabitants in all the land. It is estimated that there were only 151,000 non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine in 1540.
Mark Twain, describing the country in 1867, remarked that it was a “desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds-a silent mournful expanse...A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action...We never saw a human being on the whole route...There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
While the records of mermaid migration from the same time period are tragically unavailable, we do know that the vast majority of today's Arab population in this area migrated into Israel from the surrounding Arab countries. Amazingly, most were brought in by the early Zionist movement as migrant workers. Lured by the promise of good jobs, high salaries, and better standards of living, tens of thousands resettled in what is today Israel between 1850 and 1950, although never claiming any sort of allegiance to their new location.
The growth was extraordinary. The Ottoman Turks’ census of 1882 recorded only 141,000 Muslims in the Land of Israel. The British census in 1922 reported 650,000 Muslims. With the larger migration of Jews to the Land of Israel between 1870 and 1947, the Arab population in the area grew by 270%, Today. those claiming to be Palestinian Arabs are in reality a mixture of these migrants from the surrounding Arab countries.
Besides the total lack of historical evidence for a Palestinian Arab nation or people, there is a complete lack of genetic or historical evidence. Numerous DNA tests have proven without a doubt that Jews, no matter where in the world they currently reside, are the original native inhabitants of Israel. Still, the legitimacy of these tests must be called into question when it’s noted that they refuse to test for, or even acknowledge, genetic markers found in certain mythical species such as gnomes, trolls, and sasquatches.
Yet the science is still consistent with countless archeological evidence, with new finds to support the Jewish claim being discovered almost daily. Meanwhile, when the Palestinian Arab Museum opened in 2016, it was completely empty. Researchers have yet to provide any archeological evidence of a "Palestine", most likely due to a shameful inherent bias in the field against finding things that aren’t there.
The lack of their own existence is not even contested by the Palestinian Arabs themselves. In fact, they openly endorse the fact. PLO executive committee member Zahir Muhsein remarked in 1977 that “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.”
Likewise, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, Syrian Arab leader to the British Peel Commission, claimed in 1937 that “There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
Even Yasser Arafat, Founder of the PLO and creator of the idea of a Palestinian people knew that it wasn’t real. Among his remarks are "If there is any such thing as a Palestinian people, it is I, who created them.” and "The Palestinian people have no national identity. ... man of destiny, will give them that identity through conflict with Israel.
The Palestinian Arabs themselves seem clear on the fact that they are a self-created group with a self-created history. Ironically, it seems that the Palestinian Arabs are the only people in the world who don’t believe in fairy tales.
All history, archeology, and science point to a "Palestinian" state being completely fictional. This would be a problem for the world if it was drawing its evidence from books on history archeology or science. But it’s not, it’s genre of choice is fantasy.
And clearly, no country has stronger bona fides to the claim of being imaginary than "Palestine". No other nation has so much evidence to support its never existing. Yet it seems that Israel is once again making none-reality an obstacle to official recognition.
Such behavior has not only isolated Israel from its international neighbors but from its imaginary neighbors as well. While the Abraham Accords have led to diplomatic relations with several Arab states, to this date Israel has not entered into any such relations with fictional countries. To this date, no treaties have been signed with Middle Earth Oz, Neverland, or the Mushroom Kingdom.
The unavoidable truth is, that there will never be peace as long as Israel keeps on making decisions based in reality. As long as it stubbornly insists on truth, the nation will never be able to move forward in a world where truth plays no part. There can never be peace when one side is sane and the other is delusional. According to the world, the only option is obviously that Israel must cease clinging to reality. It must reject reason and rationality for the sake of peace.
The only other alternative is for the rest of the world to embrace reality. To make decisions based on logic and reason. To return to truth. And every day, that seems more and more like the real fairy tale.
Ilan Goodman is a museum collections professional and exhibition curator. He also serves as a rabbi and educator. He made Aliyah to Israel in 2011 and lives with his wife and children in Beit Shemesh.