Labeling Jews as 'settler-colonialists' flips the truth - opinion

One only need to recall the UNRWA definition of a Palestinian refugee to realize the basic truth of counter-Palestinian demography claims.

 IDF SOLDIERS stand guard while Palestinians and left-wing activists protest near the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh, east of Nablus, in 2022 (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
IDF SOLDIERS stand guard while Palestinians and left-wing activists protest near the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh, east of Nablus, in 2022
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

The success of the counter-narrative portraying Jews as “settler-colonialists” in an “Arab Palestine” has been remarkable, if only due to the stunning ability of those promoting such a characterization to push not only a blatantly false history but also to be able to replace the truth of their own identity and history.

New additions to old slander

This “colonialism” claim is not a new line of attack on Zionism but it has benefited from new terminology and the development of multiple academic disciplines over the past decades that lend support, each echoing the lie in journals and conferences. Moreover, there is the growing spread of Islamic populations throughout Europe – and increasingly in the United States – which provides activist support through campaigns and rallies, in addition to the threats of abuse and actual physical harm.

There is also the perfidious neo-Bundist camp within the Jewish people that weakens the ability to thwart its growth. And it is not the appearance of groups like IfNotNow or Jewish Voice for Peace or pseudo-intellectuals such as Peter Beinart. 

Here is the former executive director of Harvard Hillel, writing in the university’s student newspaper on December 29: “Let me speak directly to Jewish students at Harvard... it’s alienating and hurtful to so many of you when campus Jewish organizations, like Hillel and Chabad, take positions that exclude your voices... No one has a monopoly on Judaism... Be boldly critical of Israel.”

Combining the Arab propaganda onslaught with neo-Marxist ideology together with Jewish quasi-Bundist operatives, a weak establishment of Jewish leadership and the near-ignorance of the Jewish youth is the sorrowful perfect storm that has been undercutting the truth about Zionism as an authentic movement of national restitution.

Whereas the movement for Arab Palestine has never been shy about denying Jewish national identity and falsifying the historical continuum of a Jewish presence in this land for over three millennia, the Jewish side has been reluctant to suggest that Palestinianism is not as legitimate or authentic as its proponents would wish it to be. Anyone doing so will first and foremost be attacked by Jews.

AN EARLY case was the book From Time Immemorial by Joan K. Peters on the demographic issue with its thesis that many Arabs, who subsequently identified as “Palestinian,” arrived in the area of Palestine as a result of the Zionist waves of immigration.

In 1985, in The New York Times, Israeli historian Yehoshua Porath described it as a “sheer forgery.” Amazingly, though, he accepted her basic fact that “during the Mandate, the country absorbed 100,000 legal and illegal Arab immigrants and their offspring.” As Jonathan Tobin noted in Commentary in January 2015, shortly after Ms. Peters died, her book highlighted the danger that “anyone who seeks to challenge the Palestinian narrative of dispossession by the Jews does so at their own peril.” Today, though, there are the studies of Rivka Shpak Lissak that show that in 1914, “about 50% 0f the 525,000 Muslims were immigrants.”

And yet, one only need to recall the UNRWA definition of a Palestinian refugee to realize the basic truth of counter-Palestinian demography claims, which state that many Arabs are recent arrivals. It reads, “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948.” Two years of residency are all that were required. Two years. Why would a “people” asserting, as Saeb Erekat did, a presence in this land that preceded the Jews by 5,000 years, need such a short period of residency to deserve to be Palestinian?

Zionists need to remember simple facts

This is but one factor to be challenged. Zionist education needs to return to the basics. It needs to restate fundamental truths.

Following almost 1,500 years of Jewish presence in the Land of Israel, during which time it was ruled by a tribal federation led by judges, and two periods by a monarchy, including a short few decades of exile and return as well as a priestly commonwealth, Jews lost political independence to Rome. That imperial power renamed Judea as “Palaestina,” a name previously used to describe the Eastern Mediterranean coast from Syria to Egypt, after a series of Jewish wars of liberation.

Arabs, as a collective, appeared in the area only in the early 7th century as conquerors and occupiers, part of the first great wave of imperial Islam sweeping out from the Arabian Peninsula. Their historical, cultural, linguistic, artistic, and economic influence and achievements in this region were minimal and not at all unique. In no way did they develop any national identity that could compare to that of the Jewish nation in any form or expression. Their stealing of Jewish national identity, starting with Jerusalem, is anathemas.

All through the period of occupation by foreign powers – Roman, Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke, or Ottoman – a continuum of Jewish presence throughout the country was an indisputable fact. Not for naught did the League of Nations include in the opening section of its mandate decision that “recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country” and, on the other hand, pointedly exclude any mention of an “Arab” people. In 1922, the truth was known and apparent.

Moreover, the Arabs resident in the Mandate entity expressed at the outset their demand that the area of Palestine be southern Syria and should not become a separate country. Even the anti-Zionist King-Crane Report noted that “the world is to look forward to Palestine becoming a definitely Jewish state,” while local Arabs “ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine.”

Whatever rights, whether political or otherwise, that Arabs in the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea demand to be recognized, there is no question that Jewish national identity takes precedence.

The writer is a researcher, analyst, and opinion commentator on political, cultural, and media issues.