Thursday, January 29, 2009

Controversial Bestseller Shakes the Foundation of the Israeli State

This interesting article reviews some of the main points in When and How Was the Jewish People Invented?, a book by Tel Aviv University scholar Shlomo Zand (or Sand)
What if the Palestinian Arabs who have lived for decades under the heel of the modern Israeli state are in fact descended from the very same "children of Israel" described in the Old Testament?

And what if most modern Israelis aren't descended from the ancient Israelites at all, but are actually a mix of Europeans, North Africans and others who didn't "return" to the scrap of land we now call Israel and establish a new state following the attempt to exterminate them during World War II, but came in and forcefully displaced people whose ancestors had lived there for millennia?

What if the entire tale of the Jewish Diaspora -- the story recounted at Passover tables by Jews around the world every year detailing the ancient Jews' exile from Judea, the years spent wandering through the desert, their escape from the Pharaoh's clutches -- is all wrong?

As I am not a Middle East specialist, I can't comment on the veracity of the book, but as a historian I can say that tradition is "invented" and rarely true. History is never proven. History is a type of story, and even if we knew all the facts (which we never do), there are countless different ways to tell the story, and there are varying meanings to attach to said facts. How we see our past is always coloured by the present.

In the end, we can't base a present day land claim on an unproven (and unprovable) story from the far distant past. People can never be restored to their "rightful" home (when the displacement was thousands of years ago), because people are always involved in voluntary and involuntary migrations. Once people have made a new home and have borne children there, you can't kick them out. This goes for both Palestinians and Israelis. Like it or not, this area has to become a home for both groups in one way or another. I prefer a one-state secular democracy, but recognize the challenges of this solution. We have yet to get over this "clash of civilizations" myth.

Interestingly, there are people arguing in the comments about genetic similarity/difference of Jewish people (for instance, that Jews are all surprisingly alike, or they are more similar to non-Jewish Arabs or non-Jewish Europeans or non-Jewish Ethiopians or whatever). While an interesting intellectual exercise (it can be helpful for tracing migration patterns in the distant past), this seems to me not only silly but potentially dangerous to use in determining current political and territorial rights. I'm pretty sure we no longer believe in reserving specific pieces of land for those with particular genetic sequences.


Chrystal Ocean said...

Interesting post. I, like you, would prefer a one-state solution.

LeDaro said...

"children of Israel" are indeed not European. It might very well be Palestinians who converted to Christianity over time and Islam.

Palestinians will be treated like blackw in US before Abe Lincoln and even now in some southern parts of US.

LeDaro said...

I meant "blacks".

T B said...

Here's a great graffiti mural about the assault on Palestine that I've just come across -

T B said...

Here's a collection of photos that tangibly show the potential for Jewish-Israeli-Palestinian solidarity -

I want to elaborate on what's there in a blog post, but I don't know if I'll actually get around to doing so.

Red Jenny said...

Those are some great pix, Toban, thx

Joseph Krengel said...

Call me crazy, but if "tradition" or a historical narrative doesn't tie anyone to the land, doesn't that imply that the Palestinians no longer have a claim to Israel's territory outside of the West Bank and Gaza?

Sura5-32 said...

LeDaro said:
"children of Israel" are indeed not European. It might very well be Palestinians who converted to Christianity over time and Islam.

Err...Say what? Care to explain what a "Palestinian" is?! No country called Palestine has existed in the history of Planet Earth! ($10,000 prize to anyone who can prove otherwise,

It was Israel until Roman Emperor Hadrian renamed it Palastina after the Jewish revolt (how do we know it happened? archealogical evidence, carbon dated scrolls from the time...y'all talk about this stuff as if it's ancient history, 5000 years is NOT a long time relative to human history!).

Palastina became Falastin but the "Palestinians" were simply people who lived in the region/Province" called Palestine. Who were they? If you take the histories of the various Empires that came through the region, add to that archeological evidence and the collected historical knowledge (TAKE OUT THE MIRACLES & THE DIALOGUE) of the 3 monotheistic religions you come to realize that Israel/Palestine/Canaan/Trans-Jordan or whatever you want to call it has been a Jewish land for the bulk of 5000 years.

The New Testament talks of a Jewish Jesus and his Jewish disciples in Roman Occupied Israel.
The Koran talks of Moses & his people (the tribes of Israel) settling in Israel.
The Greeks, Macedonians, The Romans, the Persians, the Ottomans - they all have well recorded histories.

In the end, we can't base a present day land claim on an unproven (and unprovable) story from the far distant past.
ISRAEL IS A SECULAR, PLURALISTIC DEMOCRACY. Zionism has NOTHING TO DO WITH RELIGION! That is among the greatest fallacies of our time!

The Zionists were not religious, Herzl and those that followed him were fervently ANTI-RELIGIOUS, Herzl himself DESPISED JERUSALEM and its religious trappings. The Zionists that built the founding kibbutz settlements were Marxists! A rabbi wasn't even allowed entry in the early days!

Zionism is quite simply:
The Jewish culture/bloodlines right of return to the State they were exiled from.

I say bloodline because although its unpopular to say so (as it was the foundation of some famous racist idealogies) Judaism is just that. Judaism has never had missionaries, crusades and has never been receptive of converts. The result is that while Christianity & Islam grow, their senior by thousands of years shrinks and shrinks. Today Judaism doesn't even make the top-10 world religions by population - there are more Animalists than Jews! Establishing that Judaism is a bloodline and that the European Jews weren't just "opportunistic converts" (explain Ty Sachs!) is extremely important.

Many Empires came through Israel and had different attitudes towards the Jewish population. Most did not treat the Jews well and either exiled them outright or persecuted them to a point were many were forced to leave (the bulk of Jewish history is alas, marked by this type of ill-treatment).

THE DIASPORA - The so-called "European Jews" are a DIRECT RESULT OF THIS! They are first-hand or the descendents of exiles.

Jews have uttered "next year in Jerusalem" for generations!

When the Ottoman Empire finally fell in the late 1900s they finally felt safe to return.

I'm trying to shorten this but it's not easy as I can't skip over certain things.

As the Jews were returning to Israel the Brits were splitting up the leftovers of the Ottoman Empire into new countries. MOST OF THESE COUNTRIES HAVE NO HISTORICAL PRECEDENT AND WERE STRICTLY ARTIFICIAL CREATIONS - I am talking of nations like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria & Jordan.

Because of the Jewish migration, and because of Israel's historical precedent and ESPECIALLY BECAUSE THEY HAD ALREADY GIVEN 99% OF THE MIDDLE EAST TO NEW ARAB COUNTRIES, THE BRITS PROMISED THE JEWS ALL OF THE PROVINCE OF PALESTINE (this is the Balfour Declaration which was later ratified into International Law)...

Of course, the Jews never got this. The Hashemites, who had originally been given the Herjaz region - promptly lost it to the House of Saud (region became Saudi Arabia). They came to the Brits with demands for replacement land...

YES - the Brits had promised the Jews all of Palestine but YOU DO THE MATH: Hundreds of Millions of newly proud Arabs in the MidEast VS. hundreds of thousands of Jews speaking a mishmash of languages, just after the Holocaust! The Brits carved 70% OF THE LAND PROMISED TO THE JEWS AND CREATED JORDAN

The Jews created Israel and those Arabs that chose to stay were granted FULL CITIZENSHIP AND RIGHTS! Today they are no different from Jewish Israelis in their rights. They vote in elections, sit in parliament (yep, several Arab MKs), one sat on the Supreme Court, they are the freest, healthiest, more literate Arabs in the MidEast. For me, that is the greatest tragedy of the MidEast - that for Arabs to be free, they must live in the Jewish state!

Nobody ever talks about them - they are an important piece of the puzzle as they are PROOF THAT THOSE THAT CALL THEMSELVES "REFUGEES" don't fit the standard definition. Israel today accomodates over 1 million Arbas as citizens, thats 20% of the population! This while the Arabs make a big fuss over settlers, who don't make up 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of 1% of the Arab population!

BTW: Few also know of the nearly 1 million Jews that were forcibly exiled by newly created Arab nations. We don't talk of "occupied Jewish land" or "Jewish refugees" because Israel absorbed them and made them citizens. TILL THIS DAY - THE ARAB WORLD REFUSES TO TAKE IN EVEN ONE "PALESTINIAN" ARAB. A sad fact considering before the Ottomans fell they were all JUST ARABS! The concept of Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, Iraqi are all new artificial constructs (which also raises the questions: what entitles them to yet another country?!)


winglesss said...

The point is: it has nothing to do with unprovable items... This is hardly ancient history...

And even if you ignore all of history, even if you want to ignore the combined recorded histories of 6+ Empires (who were definitely not in cahoots, and definitely NOT friends of the Jews), well preserved archealogical evidence that's clear as day (go to Israel, everywhere you stick a bloody shovel you find evidence! They can't build a building or a road there without uncovering something of ancient improtance!) then the legal basis for Israel is STILL THERE.

The Ottoman Empire fell to the British Empire in the late 1800s. The British Empire, along with League of Nations split up this land as they saw fit. On this land they created many new nations. 99% of the land was given to Arab nations.
1% of the land was granted to Jews!

In 1948 the Brits took the remaining 30% of the land they promised the Jews back in the Balfour Declaration (see above for other 70%) and decided to SPLIT IT YET AGAIN. UNBELIEVABLY; THE JEWS AGREED! This part of the history is without doubt, and without question! It happened in 1948 and not even the Arabs deny it. The Jews agree to this offer while the Arabs rejected it! Israel was thus declared in 1948, while the areas of Gaza & Judea became NO-MANS LAND!

This NO-MANs LAND was occupied by Egypt (Gaza) & Jordan (Judea) from 1948 until Israel won it back from them in the 6 day war of 1967... When Arabs speak of going back to 1967 borders I often shake my head? It's common knowledge that Jordan will not take back Judea & that Sadat made NOT TAKING BACK GAZA a condition of peace...

AFTER ALL, why would Sadat want a useless, overpopulated patch of land?! why would anyone! Israel has been trying to give it to the Arabs since Oslo! See Barake offer of 2000 and Olmert offer... Arafat rejected the 2000 offer, while the unilateral declaration of Hamasistan (aka the Gaza withdrawal) has lead only to an INCREASE IN VIOLENCE.

If this conflict is about land, why does every Israeli concession lead to increased violence against Israel!

It was Oslo that turned rock throwers into suicide bombers (that started as a result of the peace process), lebanon withdrawal that lead to Summer War & Regev/Goldwasser, Gaza withdrawal led to 5000 rockets... Things that make you go hrmmmm...

Anonymous said...

4 u

Anonymous said...

thank u