American-Israeli historian and politician Michael Oren writes that “great wars in history eventually became great wars about history.” Meaning there is the war and then the war of words as different biased parties seek to create a favorable narrative of the war. That has never been truer than in the present age of social media.
Many years ago, Helen Thomas, a fixture of the White House press corps, who covered 10 presidents, was quoted saying, “The Jews should get the hell out of Palestine.” Thankfully, this comment forced Thomas (89 at the time) into retirement. However, it was the words of another news anchor—from a conservative outlet—mocking her that led me to write “The 15 Most Important Facts about the Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.” He said, “She remembers before 1948 when Palestine was a nation.” Of course, Palestine was never a nation.
The average Joe on the street would have no reason to question this false narrative:
- There was a peaceful Arab nation named Palestine.
- The Jews took it over and displaced them.
- They now employ an apartheid system on those who stayed.
Of course, none of that is true. But that is where the “great wars about history” begin. Here is the real truth!
- The last two legal administrators of Palestine before Israel were the Ottomans (1517-1917) and then the British (1917-1947).
- During this time, the word Palestinian, which came from the Romans in 132 CE, referred to any inhabitant of the region regardless of ethnicity. Jews were considered Palestinian.
- When people saw Palestine in the map portion of their Bibles, they did not think about an Arab country but equated that with Israel.
- Israel did not fight “Palestinians” for independence, but Jordanians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Lebanese, and Syrians.
- By declaring independence, Israel was fulfilling the aspirations of the Balfour Declaration, which called for a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine. “At San Remo, the Allies confirmed the pledge contained in the Balfour Declaration concerning the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine.” (source)(The San Remo Conference was an official, legally binding convention held after WWI so the conquering forces could decide the precise boundaries for territories the Allies captured. This would include the land that makes up today’s Iraq, Syria, Israel, Jordan, and more. It was considered legally binding international law.)
- Israeli Arabs have full rights as citizens. One of Israel’s three Supreme Court justices is Arab.
Israelis are Colonialists
Another example is the accusation against Israelis as being colonialists. Bernard Harrison tackles this with excellence in “The Resurgence of Antisemitism.” When we think of colonialists, we think of expansion, such as the European race to settle the Americas or Great Britain and France in Africa. When someone calls Israel an imperialist entity, no one challenges this. But if you just think about it—it is an absurd accusation.
- The Jews coming from Eastern Europe were not coming from another “Israel” to enlarge it but as persecuted refugees. No government sent them to expand the empire of an existing Jewish state. They were scattered all over the world.
- “To begin with, there was no initial military incursion by Jews against a preexisting Arab population.” The Jews arrived with suitcases, not tanks!
- Many of the first Zionists were socialist radicals; and, as such, anti-Imperialism. They came from an Eastern Europe that would soon embrace an anti-Capitalism ideology. Empires seek to expand their “brand.” Socialists are not patriots. They chose to be “alienated from all religious or national identities.”
- They did not come in the name of a foreign conqueror but arrived “flag-less.” They were refugees. The Jews had suffered countless persecutions and pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia. Fleeing to Palestine—the ancient Jewish homeland—was a desperate act of self-determination and self-preservation.
- The Jews did not fight against the Ottoman occupier but joined their community. They bought property. Created farms. Strengthened the economic outlook (which was bleak before they arrived) and created jobs. Fact: the ancestors of more than half of those who call themselves Palestinians today arrived after the Jews began to redeem the land in the late 1800s because of the economic opportunities. They came from all over the Middle East.
- The Jews did not arrive to take over the country of “Palestine,” as the land was sparsely inhabited. Contrary to popular belief, there was no thriving Palestinian Arab community in the 1800s. The ground was full of rocks, and where it was soft, you would find malaria-filled swamps. The chalutzim (pioneers) worked tirelessly to clear the land and drain the swamps.
- The Jews have an unbroken link and presence to the Land going back more than 3,000 years. There were no Brits in the New World when they arrived. Jews have lived in the land of Israel since Joshua crossed over the Jordan river. So while, yes, the Jewish people were scattered by God’s hand, there has always been a remnant in the Land of Israel.“The Jews of the First Aliya, in short, were not, unlike the British in Australia or New Zealand or the French in Algeria, an alien implantation, imposed by the military power of an alien state, in a land where their presence had been previously unknown. They entered the territory of the Ottoman Empire as individual immigrants to settle in a part of the empire where many of their coreligionists had preceded them and where there had already existed immemorially a substantial population and in some places a majority or plurality, of Jews.”
- Unlike Colonialists, the Jews have returned more land than they won in military conquest. In 1979, Israel agreed to return the entire Sinai to Egypt. Unthinkable for a good colonialist.
- The returning exiles of Israel did not displace the present population (though many fled decades later during Independence).
- The Jewish National Fund was created in 1901, long before the war for Independence (1948), to legally “buy and develop land in Ottoman Syria for Jewish settlement” (source), as opposed to forcibly stealing it.
While I hope I never find myself fighting in a physical war, I will gladly enter the war of words to fight for the truth.
 Harrison, Bernard. The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism (Philosophy and the Global Context (Paperback)) (p. 82). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.
 Prager, Dennis; Telushkin, Joseph. Why the Jews?: The Reason for Antisemitism (p. 56). Touchstone. Kindle Edition.
 Harrison, Bernard. The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism (Philosophy and the Global Context (Paperback)) (pp. 83-84). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.