Delegitimization provides the sociopsychological rationale, the moral and discursive basis to harm the delegitimized group, even in the most inhumane ways… Delegitimized groups are rhetorically constructed as worthy targets of violence.
The Oxford Handbook of Intergroup Conflict, 2012
The above is what we Israelis, as this volatile region’s most relentlessly delegitimized group, must keep uppermost in mind every mid-May.
Whereas we celebrate our state’s Independence Day according to the Hebrew calendar, the Gregorian anniversary, May 15, is annually commemorated by Arabs as a day of lamentation for the Nakba. It’s the catastrophe according to their loaded terminology, which renascent Jewish sovereignty supposedly inflicted on the supposedly indigenous people of this land – the Palestinians.See the latest opinion pieces on our Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
The notion that Israel was born in sin is delegitimization in the most extreme sense.
Israel is painted as a wrong and righting the wrong means eradicating Israel. There’s no getting away from the conclusion to which this representation unavoidably leads. Israel is illegitimate both in its inception and subsequent survival. Peace can be restored only when the illegitimacy is removed.
It’s essential to remember this as we see our Arab neighbors – fellow holders of Israeli citizenship who enjoy all the perks and privileges thereof – bewail the fact that an Israel at all exists. Nakba Day is in fact Delegitimization Day. It lays the ideological groundwork for marking us as “worthy targets of violence.”
The delegitimization rests on two interconnected cornerstones – portraying Israel as the occupier-aggressor and portraying local Arabs as the hapless aboriginals overrun and oppressed by the occupier-aggressor.
Both these premises have become axiomatic among Israel’s own Arabs and are expediently espoused by Israel’s Left, which with shallow self-serving sanctimony owns up to a sad collective guilt.
That’s why ex-education minister (Yuli Tamir of Labor) once proposed including the Nakba in Israel’s school curriculum. That’s why there was no indignation when new MK Zohair Bahloul – an Arab-Israeli sportscaster famous for his extravagantly flowery play-by-play soccer commentary – gave voice to the delegitimization narrative.
In an interview with Channel 20, Bahloul openly declared that the ticket which fielded him in the hope of winning Arab votes – the Zionist Camp, a.k.a. Labor/Kadima – “isn’t Zionist” and that the name was just “a temporary one,” i.e. a ploy.
The Zionist appellation, he expounded, “is spiteful to the Arab sector” because the “Arab public cannot be Zionist.” Asked whether the Jews should again be scattered in the Diaspora, Bahloul said: “One must recognize the fact that the state of Israel was established on the ruins of Palestine and Arabs have aboriginal rights... How can you deny the fact that there were Palestinians here and 500 villages were destroyed?”
Here in a nutshell are the crude Nakba charges against Israel, predicated on the fictional existence of an entity called Palestine, which had predated Israel and which Israel had ruthlessly demolished.
All which inconveniently contradicts these contentions can be dispensed with in the style of Soviet-era loose-leaf encyclopedias, where pages with no-longer approved information were replaced by the latest party line.
Here’s a pertinent case in point. Until not too long ago the official Umm el-Fahm website featured a proud historical retrospective of the major clans that comprise most of this Arab city’s population. Then an unseen hand deleted the file.
The clan summaries were truthful but truth can be all too undesirable in the context of boosting an aboriginal Palestinian identity, especially one that according to PA figurehead Mahmoud Abbas is no less than a whopping 9000-years-old. Such outlandish cock-and-bull stories, needless to stress, are lapped up abroad, especially by Europe’s refined Judeophobes.
The spin about a primal presence in this land is born of the need to cover up the incontestable historical absence of a Palestinian nation. This is achieved by promoting a latter-day fabrication to proclaim precedence over the ancient Jewish link to this land. Thereby, even the Biblical Israelites can be slandered as having been imperialist conquistadors already back then, never mind the simultaneous assertion that no Israelites whatsoever were ever here.
Consistent logic and congruent versions were never prerequisite in the peculiar perspective of Palestinian propaganda.
The Umm el-Fahm clan chronicles had to be sacrificed so as not to sabotage the Canaanite lineage canard. The embarrassing chronicles directly detailed what each and every clan member knows – where the clan drifted from and how recently.
Some members of four clans – Makhajna, Jabarin, Mahamid, and Aghbariya – immigrated here in recent centuries from Syria and the Arabian Peninsula (Yemen and today’s Saudi Arabia) but even the majority of these clans is comprised of far newer-arrivals. A big influx from Egypt and Transjordan was attracted by the economic opportunities that the burgeoning Zionist endeavor created.
This was a severely depopulating land due to appallingly abused environmental infrastructure (with resultant ills like malarial swamps) as well as marauding bands of Beduin bandits who terrorized settled folks. Zionism made this country tolerable again whereupon Arabs came streaming in to avail themselves of Jewish-made prospects.
It’s not just our say-so. On May 17, 1939 U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt noted that “Arab immigration into Palestine since 1921 has vastly exceeded the total Jewish immigration during this whole period.”
Winston Churchill made the identical observation: “Despite the fact that they were never persecuted, masses of Arabs poured into the country and multiplied until the Arab population grew more than what all of world Jewry could add to the Jewish population.”
Occasionally the truth slips out despite the authorized narrative. In March 2012 Hamas’s Interior Minister in Gaza, Fathi Hamad, pleaded for pan-Arab help against the IDF “so that we can continue the Jihad… Praise Allah, we all have Arab roots and every Palestinian in Gaza and all over Palestine can prove their Arab roots, whether they be in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, or anywhere else. We have blood ties."
Hamad elaborated by personal example: “half my family is Egyptian… There are over 30 clans in the Gaza Strip with the surname Al-Masri [Egyptian]… Half of all Palestinians are Egyptians, and the other half are Saudi. Who are the Palestinians? We have many families called Al-Masri whose roots are Egyptian… We are Egyptians.”
He knows whereof he speaks. Itinerant Arab laborers streamed here from the entire Arabic-speaking realm – from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia. Jews turned the wilderness into a habitable domain. Arabs flocked in to reap the benefits. But nobody objected. Arabs were counted as natives. The UN actually recognized as “Palestinian” any Arab migrants who sojourned here two years prior to 1948.
Most of the Arab population on Israel’s Coastal Plain is originally Egyptian and arrived with British acquiescence. Hence, the recorded Mandate-era population explosion in some Arab villages ranged quite unnaturally from between 200% to a whopping 1,040%, according to Prof. Moshe Brawer’s research into Arab migration into the designated Jewish National Home from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc.
The ruling Brits and world opinion didn’t oppose the Arab influx for “changing facts on the ground,” possibly because liberal Jews didn’t riot.
So why the alacrity of Abbas et al to covet the pedigree of Canaanites or Philistines (whose bloodlines, ironically, were assimilated into that of the Israelite majority still in early biblical days and whose names would never have endured had they not been preserved by Jewish historiography)?
In a rare moment of candor former MK Azmi Bishara (who absconded to avoid trial for treason and espionage during the 2006 war) explained from his Qatari haven that Arab nationalists feel “obligated to nationalize the history of Arab-speaking peoples and to make it into a national history that goes back from before the time of Islam all the way to contemporary times... Acting out of a need to compete with Zionism, the Palestinian national movement has anchored its origins to those of the Canaanites” in order to “achieve its own, unique starting-off point in the past that precedes that of the Hebrew tribes, which Zionism claims as its natural ancestors.”
Translation: If the Jews boast ancient roots, local Arabs will invent even more ancient roots. In the current postmodern ambiance, it’s not like it would be bon ton anywhere to insist on even a modicum of historical accuracy.
If anything, there’s perverse satisfaction in the Europe that largely cleansed itself of Jews, to depict the remnant of the Jewish people as a tyrannical ogre. Hence it’s uncool to recall that Jerusalem Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, still revered by Arabs, spent WWII as Hitler’s personal guest in Berlin and avidly collaborated in implementing the “final solution to the Jewish problem.”
Husseini wasn’t the odd-man-out. He gave expression to his people’s overwhelming vehemence. Already in 1937 Josef Goebbels praised Arab “national and racial awareness,” noting that “in Palestine they hoist Nazi flags and deck their homes with swastikas and portraits of Hitler.”
Arabs were among the first to latch onto Nazi ideology. Undisguised fascist parties proliferated – from Syria’s Nationalist-Socialists headed by Anton Saada to Ahmed Hussein’s Young Egypt. Husseini was the kingpin.
During WWII Husseini’s adherents in this country hoarded arms and trained to assist Rommel’s invading Afrika Korps. They harbored German paratroopers, engaged in espionage, disseminated Third Reich propaganda and greeted each other with Nazi salutes, accompanied by Heil Hitlers.
The Arabs (who before Israeli independence fanatically spurned the Palestinian moniker as a British imperialist import – which it indeed was) were victims of their own belligerence. They murdered their own brethren and sabotaged their own economy. In 1936 Husseini, bankrolled by Hitler, instigated a self-inflicted disaster – harbinger of the 1948 Nakba which would follow the onslaught by seven Arab armies on day-old Israel merely three years post-Holocaust.
The ultra-vulnerable Jewish state would be blamed for surviving and would fill its thwarted would-be annihilators with yet more frustration and festering rage. Instead of abating, genocidal hate would only intensify and magnify.
Those belatedly calling themselves Palestinians portray themselves as innocents struck by a monumental calamity and continuously subjugated for no fault of their own. They clamor for another chance, for a return to Square-One, presumably to recoup their losses and continue from where they left off.
This is the dialectic of delegitimization and the Nakba is its driving force. Time to fearlessly tell it like it is.