Throughout our history, myths have come and gone. Eventually, so will the myths that Israel’s founding was predicated on. As a fierce revolt for Palestinian emancipation rages on in the Palestinian Occupied Territories, it is a depressing fact that many of the myths are still being regurgitated to the children of Israel and Zionist Jews throughout the world, as well as to the western media.
The myths are often retold by Israel’s highly-acclaimed. Several days ago, Israeli foreign minister and Nobel peace prize winner, Shimon Peres told the American Jewish Committee at their annual meeting that “In 1947, they [the Palestinians] were offered to build a state. They rejected it. It was a resolution of the United Nations that gave them 80 percent of the land. And to this very day, nobody can seriously explain why did they do it, because seriously you cannot explain a mistake.”
He was, of course, referring to the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan, which would have divided Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. It is puzzling where Peres obtained the 80 percent figure but the Plan actually intended to give 56.5% of the land to the Jews, who owned less than 10% of the territory. 43.5% was to be given to Palestinian Arabs, though they owned more than 90% of the land. Is it any wonder the Arabs rejected the Plan?
Peres went on to tell the American Jewish Committee that the rejection “brought tragedy upon the Palestinian people, including the creation of a refugee problem.” The 3.7 million United Nation Relief and Work Assistant Program-registered Palestinian refugees have heard it all. From Israeli charges that Palestinians sold their land to Zionist Jews to Arab leaders asking them to leave. Apparently, the life of a refugee sounded more attractive to Palestinian land sellers.
Maybe, Palestinian villagers needed to be told to escape slaughtering. Can one imagine the absurdity if Kosovar refugees, who escaped Slobodan Milosevic’s killing machines, only left after getting the blessing from Albanian leaders that they were allowed to run for their lives? Common sense prevailed and they fled on their own. So, too, did the Palestinians of 1948.
And what was so strikingly dissimilar between the evils which visited the Kosovar refugees and those that visited the Palestinians of 1948? Consider this eerie testimony, which would bring a sense of déjé vu for any Kosovar refugee.
“After the battle, the Jews took elderly men and women and youths, including four of my cousins and a nephew. They took them all. Women who had on them gold and money, were stripped of their gold. After the Jews removed their dead and wounded, they took the men to the quarry and sprayed them all with bulletséOne woman had her son taken some 40 to 60 meters away from where she and the rest of the women stood by, and [they] shot him dead. Then they brought Jewish kids to throw stones at his body. They later poured kerosene on his body and set it ablaze while the women watched from a distance. -Abu Yousef from the Palestinian Am’ari refugee camp near Ramallah.
There is absolutely no difference in terms of the serious nature of the atrocities committed in Kosovo and Palestine. Massacres, mass starvation, the separation of families, mass deportations and even mass rapes. “There is no doubt that many sexual atrocities were committed by the attacking Jews. Many young girls were raped and later slaughtered. Old women were also molested,” reported General Richard Catling, a British Army Assistant Inspector who interrogated several female survivors. In addition, more than 400 Palestinian villages were destroyed. Some estimates show that as many as 531 were destroyed.
So much for the famous words of early Zionist Israel Zangwill who, in 1897, described Palestine as “the land without people for the people without a land.” It was this torment that led to the Arab offensive which Israel often proclaims as a David versus Goliath scenario. Of course, Israel portrays itself as David. But was this the truthful scenario?
Actually, it was the Arab forces who were outnumbered. Approximately 20,000 Arab soldiers compared with 40,000-60,000 Jewish soldiers. The latter were better equipped and it has been reported that Czechoslovakia was restocking the weaponry throughout the war.
Another myth: Was it the Israelis who “made the desert bloom?” It seems that Israelis forget that many Palestinians lived off the land and made their living off the land before the Jews from Europe arrived. But let us consider what Sir John Hope Simpson reported in his comprehensive study of Palestinian agricultural potential in 1930 to Great Britain. “It has emerged quite definitely that there is at the present time and with the present methods of Arab cultivation no margin of land available for agricultural settlements by new immigrants.”
And then there was the late Golda Meir, considered one of the most unforgettable women of the 20th century. It seems that Ms. Meir did want people to forget the natives of Palestine. “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people,” she insisted. Some Israelis still argue that the term “Palestinian” was made up after the birth of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964.
Palestine has always been recognized as a distinct region by people around the world and even the founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl recognized Palestine as a distinct area when he referred to it in correspondence with the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid.
If one were to adopt the Meir rationale, it seems that the natives of Palestine belong to a non-existent generic Arab race. Palestinians are Arabs but they have there own dialect, traditions, and history that is theirs alone. And it is true that Palestine was not a nation-state in 1948, but this is a relatively modern concept anyhow. The Palestinians were the natives of the land that Israel was created on, and have had territorial ties to the land since being known as the original Canaanites, Jebuzites, and Amorites.
Other myths include the charge that Jordan is the true country of the Palestinians. Never mind that none of the villages that the refugees were forced to leave are in modern-day Israel. There is the myth that the Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries deserve compensation or the Palestinian refugees are not entitled to any. The evidence actually shows that the overwhelming majority of Jews left Arab countries willingly or as part of Mossad operations. And surely those who deserve compensation should receive compensation, but this certainly has no bearing on the Palestinian refugee’s right to receive compensation — should they choose this option.
Light needs to be shed on so many other myths. And, thankfully, the Israeli myths will eventually die out. . . as myths always do. On the other hand, like the phoenix which rises from the ashes of destruction, Palestinians are here to stay. . . for their fighting spirit and determination will never be extinguished.
Sherri Muzher is a Freelance writer for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and Former Executive Director of the Council for Palestinian Restitution and Repatriation.