Fiamma Nirenstein

“Against the ‘narrative’ – The real story of Israel”

Among the many marvels contained in the Bible, there is one that leaves the reader breathless: the historical truth, unerringly reporting what really happened so long ago. For example, the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings are high-quality history, among the greatest works of all antiquity, says Paul Johnson in his book “A History of the Jews”. They incorporate material from actual archives, such as the canons of Egyptian pharaohs, or the limmus, the eponymous lists of the Assyrians, enabling us to pinpoint precise dates and locations. Thus we know for certain that Saul was killed around 1005 BC, that David reigned until 966 BC, and that Solomon died in 926 or 925 BC.
These are just a few examples of how the national history of the Jews has been recorded, place by place, date by date, from its beginnings. Even the physical descriptions of places are precise, and contain markers that erase any doubt regarding the Jewish presence – in Jerusalem especially, from well before David’s conquest – but also in Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, and Gath, as well as Dan, Bethel, Bethlehem, Hebron, and many other places named in the texts, and verified in modern times by frequently obstructed archaeological work. Jerusalem and its Temple are described with precision. Exact descriptions of the Second Temple can be found in a great deal of Jewish literature, Christian literature (we can almost see the child Jesus at the Temple even today, on the steps climbed by all Jewish pilgrims, and by the shops where he preached to the merchants), as well as Roman (Tacitus, Flavius Josephus, etc.) and Muslim literature. And as everyone knows, an irrefutable and tragic picture of the Jews being driven from their temple, carrying the Menorah on their shoulders, is carved on the Arch of Titus.But the memory of the Jewish presence has been constantly renewed over the centuries, because in reality the Jews, hunted and persecuted, never abandoned their places of origin, neither in the traditions maintained throughout the diaspora with prayers and rites, nor in their everyday lives. The Jewish people never really left their capital, as the historical records show, bearing constant witness to their passion. Reverend James Parkes, an authority on the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, writes: “Their authentic certificates of title have been written in the memory of the heroic resistance of those who maintained the Jewish presence on Earth down the centuries and through all the times of hardship.” As early as the 4th century, forty Jewish communities can be identified from Negev to Jordan. The highest aspiration was to live in Jerusalem, which the Romans had stolen from the Jews. The Empress Eudocia granted the Jews permission to once again pray in the vestiges of the Temple. In 614, the Jews fought alongside the Persians against the Byzantine powers, and in the 7th century, Arabs entering Jerusalem bore witness to a strong Jewish presence, as did the Crusaders of the 11th century. Little by little, over the centuries, visitors to the Holy Land always told of the community of Jews who lived in the ruins of their temple. In the 19th century, all of Palestine was sparsely and infrequently occupied, while Jerusalem already had a Jewish majority.

The Jews never left, but the memory of their presence was obscured, especially in Jerusalem. The capital in particular was transformed by Arafat into a place where the historical reality was denied and forgotten, despite the proof that can be found even in Muslim books referring to the Al’Aqsa Mosque, and recalling, with the pride of conquerors, that it and the famous Dome of the Rock were constructed on the remains of the Second Temple built by Herod – Beit al-Maqdis built on top of Beit ha-Miqdash, as the Temple Mount is explained in tourist brochures.

Attempts to expel the Jews from Jerusalem over the centuries have not succeeded: the most recent – no less bloody than the many previous savage attempts – was during the second Intifada, consisted of a strategy uniting the fanatical denial of the Jewish people’s historical belonging to Israel with a genocidal hunting spree, carried out on buses, in restaurants, in supermarkets, and so on. This strategy followed a pre-determined path. It was a terrorist war, and a rejection of the Jewish presence and its right to exist, which was sold to the world as a form of colonialism, like the French presence in Algeria, meriting only obliteration through violence. This is the same denial of the Jewish people’s right to their State, on their land, that led Mahmoud Abbas, during the peace process, to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the “Jewish State”, as unconditionally required by the Israeli government. When he swears that he will never recognize Israel, Mahmoud Abbas is not stating his own personal policy, but rather a long history of refusal – the “Arab refusal”, as it has been called.

During discussion on a document that submitted 17 amendments to Strasbourg, in the European Council, I witnessed the passage of a resolution recognizing the request for “two states”. I proposed that this be changed to “two states for two peoples”, but this was rejected, and out of ignorance, laziness, conformity, and fear of the opinion of the Palestinians and Turks who were present as observers, the “two state” formula was passed. What does this mean? It means that two states can be created under the “stages” strategy, which was theorized by Faisal Husseini, along with the concept of the peace process as a “Trojan Horse” that can used to create a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. But the second state specified under the resolution, which simply calls for “two States”, could be anything – a state for two peoples, a state of its citizens, a state that is not Jewish but is ready to become Jewish, to disappear sooner or later so that the maps can finally be correct when they show, as they currently do on the walls of Palestinian schools and offices, “Palestine” as a state that includes all of Israel, with Israel being wiped off the map.

In denying Jewish history, Mahmoud Abbas is following in the footsteps of Arafat, who was unbeatable in propaganda – it was one of his most important warhorses. For him, Jewish history in Jerusalem is a “a fictitious myth”, invented by Israel “with brute force”. Palestinian newspapers, now unfortunately blindly followed by the international press, speak of the “supposed temple of the Jews”. Saeb Erekat gave his own explanation of why the Palestinian Authority does not intend to recognize the “State of the People of Israel”: “That would negate our entire narrative,” he said. And what is this narrative? It is something that leads directly to the impossibility of a true peace accord, continuing the tradition of building a false history in which the Palestinians are the rightful owners, while the Jews are foreign usurpers, genuine colonialists, and even agents of American imperialism (the protesters that ask Mahmoud Abbas to flatly reject Obama’s requests also accuse him of conspiring with the Americans and Israelis).

Acceptance of the right of the Jews to have their own State, here on this land, is the only real way to neutralize the refusal which, in recent years, has strengthened the determinedly negative responses to any peace proposal (Rabin, Barak, Olmert, Clinton, Obama), maintaining a fundamental attitude of refusal, and therefore an intention to fight to the death.

Reading Itamar Marcus’s always-instructive Palestinian Media Watch, we see endless evidence of this. There is a wide gulf between the recognition of Israel in 1993 under the Oslo Accords, and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist. Marcus quotes the PLO’s ambassador to India, Adli Sadeq, saying: “There are no Palestinians who would disagree about the fact that Israel exists, but recognizing its right to exist is very different” (Al-Hayat al-Jadida, November 26, 2011). Palestinian children are taught to distinguish between these two concepts. Their school textbooks say that “The war of ’48 … ended with the catastrophe of the Zionist gang stealing Palestine and establishing the so-called State of Israel”. Children as young as eight learn that all of Israel has been occupied territory since 1948: “We must never forget that we have a land that was occupied in 1948, and that will one day be returned to us.” When Kerry, or anyone else, maintains that it is pointless to insist on the recognition of a Jewish State because this was already done through the Oslo Accords, it must be considered that these sorts of texts, and this way of thinking, existed long before Oslo, and are firmly established in the “narrative” of Saeb Erekat.

The future depends on how we view the right of the Jewish people to their own State on this land. It is therefore essential that putting a stop to the conflict be seen in terms of ending the lie that says the Jewish people invented the fable of its Middle Eastern origins, and is in fact made up of a patchwork of nationalities, with their bags packed, ready to return to Morocco, Germany, Italy, or France. Despite all the names artificially placed on it, this land has been called Israel for more than 2000 years. It is the Land of the Jewish people, and until this is recognized and assimilated by everyone, even Palestinian schoolchildren, there is no future for peace.

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in ; English copyright, The Gatestone Institute
About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.