The prospect of killing two birds with one stone tends to be an attractive one but sometimes it can feel like all we have to work with is a vast, immovable boulder. On the same note, it may just be that a single root cause lies behind two problems which began in the 20th century and endure well into the 21st. The first problem is the lack of a resolution to the Palestinian predicament and the lack of any progress in the peace process. The second problem is the emergence and continued growth of the so-called ‘New’ form of antisemitism, which tends to be prevalent on the political left.
A number of recent articles have been written about how to be Pro-Palestinian without being an antisemite but they all seem to be lacking or not emphasizing the main problem which links antisemitism and the pro-Palestinian sentiment. At this point, let’s begin with what certainly isn’t antisemitic. Whether I or anyone else disagrees, some might make the argument that having a historical ethnic connection to a place shouldn’t give one the right to move there when one’s own close or extended family have been absent from that place for centuries if not millennia. Whether I agree or not, some might say that when we talk of self-determination, we should be speaking only about who is present in any area as we speak. It wouldn’t be antisemitic to say that the Zionist movement catered to capturing the imagination of Jews and in doing so, failed to properly consider how this might impact the Arab population that was present. One could criticize the many individual cases of expulsion in the war of independence or the modern state requisitions of land to build new localities. One may point out the democratic deficit in the current situation of control vis a vis Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the so-called Judea & Samaria area, and one could explain how it lacks legitimacy at least as a permanent or long-term solution. None of these criticisms would be antisemitic and while it strongly pains me to say it, whether I agree or not, there are indeed legitimate arguments that one can make against Zionism and the way that it has manifested itself. However, these were not and continue to not be the main basis for criticism of Israel or its existence.
David Bernstein wrote a tremendous piece about the origin of left-wing antisemitism. He correctly pointed out that the underlying ideology of left-wing antisemitism is the woke influenced narrative of post-colonialism. This is the language and set of ideas which has to a large extent been prevalent from the USSR to the Durban anti-racism conference in 2001, the antisemitic circus that spawned the BDS movement. This train of thought totally delegitimizes Israel proper in and of itself as a racist and colonialist entity. It paints Jews as a group of White folks believing in some approximation of manifest destiny. Why would they see Jews as colonialists? Because they’re bigoted and prejudiced about what Jews are. Because they either don’t believe that Jews are an ethnicity which comes from the Levant or they believe that Ashkenazi Jews aren’t real Jews. The Soviets spread the idea that Israel proper is a colonialist or imperialist entity but they wouldn’t have been able to do so if the Arab leadership of Palestine hadn’t already pushed the idea that Jews don’t come from the Levant. Does anyone really believe that Professor David Miller who was recently let go by Bristol for calling Jews pawns of a violent, foreign, racist regime would be so anti-Israel if he believed that its core population is aboriginal to the area? In summary, leftist antisemites in their ‘political criticism’ have the recurring underlying theme that Jews aren’t from Palestine/the Levant/Land of Israel and/or aren’t real Jews.
The May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas has resonated around the globe and it continues to do so. Since it began we’ve seen antisemitic attacks on Jews in London, Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere. That month in London, a convoy of cars drove through heavily Jewish areas of the city, laden with Palestinian flags shouting ‘F**k the Jews” “F**k their daughters” “F**k their mothers” “Rape their daughters” “Free Palestine”[i]. We’ve seen a Jewish mother driving her daughter in another rather Jewish area get rammed by a car covered with Palestinian flags[ii]. We’ve seen Pro-Palestinians enter a restaurant in LA, openly looking for Jews and then proceeding to physically attack them[iii] and we’ve seen several attacks by pro-Palestinians on Jews in New York[iv], Berlin[v] and elsewhere. These people wouldn’t be committing such acts if they didn’t believe that the Jews colonized and stole someone else’s land but what does all this have in common with the peace process?
One of the main sticking points and most likely the most symbolic is the issue of sovereignty in Israel’s capital Jerusalem and in particular on the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary. Israel and the Palestinians have never been able to come to an agreement. Both sides would like sovereignty over the compound which is the holiest site for Jews and the third holiest site in Islam. One of the more famous proposals made by then Israeli PM Ehud Barak to Yasser Arafat was that the Temple Mount be under Palestinian sovereignty but the area beneath it be under Israeli sovereignty. As the Palestinian side refused this arrangement, as detailed by then Israeli FM Shlomo Ben Ami, the Israeli side gave in and offered the entire Temple Mount but with the condition that the Palestinians undertake not to excavate below the area due to its holiness to Jews. This the Palestinians even refused simply due to the fact that it would acknowledge a legitimate Jewish connection to the Temple Mount[vi]. So there you have it, the Palestinian side won’t agree to any proposal which gives even symbolic recognition to the Jewish connection to even the most sacred religious site for Jews, let alone an ethnic connection to the land as a whole or as Ben Ami put it ‘That they were not willing to move toward our position even at the emotional and symbolic level. At the deepest level, they are not ready to recognize that we have any kind of title here.'[vii].
And now we come to the root of both problems. There are so many examples of this bigotry and prejudice coming from Palestinian officials because it forms the cornerstone of Palestinian education and culture. On the one hand, there is the popular general demonization, the garden variety antisemitism which Palestinians are often given a free pass to propagate. Palestinian Media Watch argues that the antisemitism is the result of what the Palestinian Authority teaches[viii]. Note the picture of Palestinians holding up a swastika and not for the first time. The article tells us that the Fatah movement (the mainstream, moderate party) produced a video about Jewish History in Europe which it posted on its Facebook page[ix]. It teaches that Jews saw themselves as superior to non-Jews and deliberately created ghettos for themselves to scheme separately and view non-Jews as snakes (ibid). It also claims that Jews collaborated with the Nazis[x]. Finally, it claims that ‘Jews were hated for their racism and their filthy behavior’[xi]. The article is full of such examples of this type of prejudice being taught by the Palestinian Authority. Thus you have Palestinian Historian Dr. Ashraf Al-Qasas claiming on TV that ‘The Jews Were ‘A Pile Of Garbage’ and that ‘The Europeans Tried To Get Rid Of Them By Dumping Them On The Arabs’[xii]. Now we get closer to the real problem: the idea that Jews are not from Palestine.
Mahmoud Abbas has himself pushed the antisemitic theory of Jews being descended from the Khazars[xiii]. He’s denied the Jewish connection to Israel/Palestine and attacked the heritage of Ashkenazim[xiv]. His opposition ‘party’ (racist terrorist organization) referring to all Israelis as ‘alien settlers’[xv]. Ahmed Tibi, member of the Israeli parliament for the main Arab party the Joint List attacked the term Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) as being ‘colonialist’[xvi] and the same with the terms Judea & Samaria. Both are aboriginal terms for Israel and the West Bank which predate the Arab invasion by over a thousand years. The Palestinian Authority has claimed that Jewish history in Jerusalem is ‘imaginary’ and ‘fables and myths’[xvii]. During the Camp David negotiations in 2000, Palestinian negotiators denied the existence of the Temples in Jerusalem, claiming that they had actually been in Nablus/Sh’khem[xviii] and that Abraham has no connection to the Jews[xix]. In 1997 on Palestinian TV, Palestinian historian Jarir Qudwa claimed that the events of the Bible took place in Arabia/Yemen, that Ashkenazi Jews are descended from Khazars, that Israelis aren’t related to Israelites, that he has more Israelite blood than former and current Israeli Prime Ministers Sharon and Netanyahu[xx]. He also claimed that the Temple existed in Mecca rather than Jerusalem and that the Palestinian civilization stretches back to the Canaanites[xxi].
Arab-Palestinians claiming descent from the Canaanite peoples is not a rare occurrence and it is a case of seeking to cut Israel out of its own history. The Israelite language is Hebrew, which is the sole remaining Canaanitic language spoken on Earth. Despite what is written in the Bible, all the archaeological and linguistic evidence shows that ancient Israel emerged from the Canaanites. However, because the authors of the Bible chose to distance Israel from its Canaanitic ancestors, this left a spot vacant to be taken advantage of. As such, Arab-Palestinians tend to write Israel out of history by claiming descent from the Canaanitic tribes which inhabited the area prior to ancient Israel. Those mentioned in the Bible are the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. While Jerusalem was founded by Amorites and originally called Ursalem, it would later be called Yevus (Jebus) and its inhabitants the Jebusites (who were thought to be Hittites) prior to the apparent Israelite conquest. Anti-Israel Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi has himself stated that Palestinians have ‘anachronistically read back into the history of Palestine over the past few centuries, and even millennia, a nationalist consciousness and identity that is in fact relatively modern.’[xxii] and that this ‘outlook’[xxiii] led to a ’predilection for seeing in peoples such as the Canaanites, Jebusites, Amorites, and Philistines the lineal ancestors of the modern Palestinians.’[xxiv]. In the 1978 Palestinian Encyclopedia it was declared ‘The Palestinians [to be] the descendants of the Jebusites, who are of Arab origin,’ and described Jerusalem as ‘an Arab city because its first builders were the Canaanite Jebusites, whose descendants are the Palestinians.’[xxv]. There are a great many of examples of Arab-Palestinians eradicating Israel and Israelites from history and denying our heritage, as well as claiming descent from the Canaanite tribes.
Finally, there are a great many Arab-Palestinian references to Israelis living in sovereign Israel, even pre-67 Israel as ‘settlers’. When commenting on a recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv, influential Palestinian media figure Abdul Bari Atwan was quoted as saying ‘“Look at the miracle… his father is a security officer, he, the youth, takes a gun, goes to Tel Aviv and opens fire at settlers.’[xxvi]. Palestinian terrorist groups, including branches of the supposedly moderate Fatah routinely refer to Israelis within the pre-1967 borders as settlers.
The big debate which arises from all of this is whether this antisemitism is the result or the cause of the conflict. According to a 2014 Anti-Defamation League poll. a staggering 93% of Arab-Palestinians hold at least one antisemitic view, the highest in the world[xxvii]. Is this merely an inevitable fall out from years of Israeli military occupation? Notwithstanding the pogroms against Israelites in Ottoman Cisjordania (Israel/Palestine) which occurred in the 16th [xxviii] , 17th [xxix] ) and early 19th [xxx] centuries in Hebron, Safed and Tiberias, which we can for the most part, see through the lens of the general political situation which led Arab-Palestinian protestors against the Mandate in 1920 to chant “Palestine is our land and the Jews are our dogs![xxxi], in seeking to trace and understand the roots of contemporary Arab-Palestinian antisemitism we may do better to look at the words and actions of the Arab-Palestinian leadership during that very British Mandate in its opposition to Israelite return.
The Arab-Palestinians were represented during the Mandate by the Arab Higher Committee which was made up of Arab-Palestinian notables but dominated by the Husseini clan. It was formed in 1936 and led by Amin al-Husseini, the British appointed Grand Mufti of Jerusalem[xxxii]. The still revered Husseini, spent WWII trying to recruit Arab-Palestinians for the Nazis[xxxiii], broadcasting in favor of the Axis powers [xxxiv], writing pamphlets for the Muslim 13th SS Handschar division (who may have directly massacred Israelites) [xxxv] of the Axis’ army including such quotes as ‘The Day of Judgement will come, when the Muslims will crush the Jews completely: And when every tree behind which a Jew hides will say: ‘There is a Jew behind me, Kill him!’[xxxvi] and who despite being aware of the Holocaust as early as 1943[xxxvii], successfully campaigned to in many cases prevent Israelites from (including thousands of Israelite children) being allowed to leave and escape continental Europe[xxxviii] and worked towards the extermination of Israelites, including in the Middle East[xxxix]. I could go on about the multitude of never prosecuted crimes against Amin al Husseini but it might be more productive to look at the position of the Arab Higher Committee at the UN in order to see the formal, official positions of this entity which represented Arab-Palestinians during the British Mandate.
During a certain university course that was mainly about the Palestine Mandate and the War of Independence, I was introduced to correspondence from both Jewish and Arab Palestinian representatives to the United Nations Partition Plan Commission. I can still remember being struck by the stark difference between the two sides’ cases. Whereas the Jewish side focused to a large extent on outlining their history in and connection to the land, a great deal of the Arab-Palestinian side’s case, coming from the Husseini clan led Arab Higher Committee, consisted of attacking or denying that Israelite history and connection to the land. This pattern was long term and also came with equal vigor from other Arab diplomats.
The Arab-Palestinians were represented by the Arab Higher Committee and in particular by Amin’s well connected relative Jamal Husseini. And the Arab position was backed by the large number of emerging Arab states’ representatives to the UN. So what was the Arab position on Zionism to the United Nations? Firstly, Husseini claimed that ‘the Arabs have always been in Palestine and that the Zionists are conducting an invasion of that country’[xl] and that the Arabs ‘are and always have been in actual possession of Palestine’[xli] . This first claim is clearly bogus in that the Arabs conquered the region in the 7th century AD and while there were Proto-Arab Qahtani Ghassanids and Adnani Nabateans some centuries earlier, these civilizations were confined to the periphery of the region. Furthermore, Arabic is the youngest of Semitic languages and was predated in the Levant by Canaanitic languages such as Hebrew. Additionally, not all nomads in the area were always Arabic speaking. The term ‘invasion’[xlii] implies that the Israelite population had no connection to the land. In claiming that the Arabs have always possessed the land, he wipes out thousands of years of Israelite history.
In combing through UN correspondence for statements made by the Arab Higher Committee or other Arab diplomats, one will find a myriad of arguments built on falsehood and bigotry or on logical fallacies. Logical fallacies such as the strawman argument in claiming that Zionism is about everyone moving to places that they or their ancestors ever lived and that the Arabs should have a right to Spain by that logic or another logical fallacy that the Israelite connection to the land is only religious in nature[xliii]. In reality, there has been a continuous Israelite presence in the land, constituting the oldest extant people from the land. The connection is religious, linguistic, historical and ethnic. But this escalates further than garden variety bigotry and into full blown antisemitic canard – like accusations when the Arab representatives make the same objections to the Jewish National Home as Adolph Hitler had done. The Israelites had been offered Uganda and Birobidjan Jamal Husseini told the UN (as if either territory would be a substitute for the actual Israelite homeland) and had rejected them[xliv], despite Herzl’s initial acceptance and despite their ability to help to alleviate the plight of Israelites. Palestine, he argued, was less suitable as it was smaller and half of it uncultivable[xlv]. The Zionist organization, he therefore argued, ‘does not want Palestine for the permanent solution of the Jewish problem or the relief of the Jews in distress. They are after power, they are after the central and strategic position of Palestine that neither Uganda nor Birobaijan possesses.’[xlvi]. In other words, the Israelites don’t want Cisjordania/Palestine due to ethnic and historical connections but rather to obtain and keep power. He also referred to the Zionist organization as ‘the most influential association in the capitals of the world’[xlvii]. Sound familiar? The Iraqi representative also claimed that ‘The Zionists have not come only for Palestine, which is mainly a barren, rocky and sandy country. Palestine is just a stepping-stone to the economic exploitation of the whole Middle-East.’[xlviii] and that ‘the whole world needs critically to examine Zionist propaganda and Zionist influence on the world press if we are to achieve peace in a democratic world’[xlix] It’s too bad that the Zionist organization or Jewish lobby that he’s referring to wasn’t influential enough during WWII to save the Israelites by giving them part of their homeland back. He once again referred to the Israelites as an ‘alien body’ regarding Israel/Palestine[l] in pleading with the UN to oppose Zionism. His final statement in that meeting was to deny any antisemitism on the part of the Arabs and to claim that there had never been any attacks on Israelites by Arabs before Zionism, that Israelites had never had political designs on the land before modern Zionism and that the Israelite community had always been small[li], all of which are extremely false claims.
There are many bigoted and racist quotes coming from Arab representatives during that period and unfortunately, I can only include a small sample in this article but finally, we come to the crux of the matter. The Syrian representative Emir Adel Arslan said ‘I think that the representative of Guatemala considers Palestine as the country of origin of the Jews. The representative of Guatemala said “Those Jews who wish to return to Palestine.”’[lii]. Of course the representative of Guatemala thought that Jews going to Palestine were returning and that Jews are from Palestine! Everybody knew that until this period when that fact began to be challenged by the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab states’ diplomats.
This gigantic lie, that Israelites don’t come from Palestine or that the majority of Israelites aren’t biological Israelites and that this somehow disqualifies them from their heritage and their rights, is what is causing all but the traditional garden variety antisemitism in the modern world. As long as it’s given legitimacy, we’ll continue to have antisemitic convoys, we’ll continue to have antisemitic UN investigators, we’ll continue to see Israelites violently attacked in the streets of New York, We’ll continue to see antisemitic religious political sects tolerated and we’ll continue to see antisemitic incitement to violence under the guise of politics by powerful men with a voice. As long as Palestinian textbooks spew hatred and falsehood, we’ll continue to see antisemitic lectures at prominent universities and prominent, mainstream TV channels promoting violence against Israelites. None of this would be possible without the big, 20th century lie that Israelites don’t come from Palestine. The hatred stems from this lie in that it accuses us of stealing someone’s land over which we have no historical rights and committed a grave act of injustice. As long as even pro-Israel leaders like Macron will publicly meet and molly coddle Palestinian Authority President Abbas, a denier of Israelite heritage and revisionist of the Holocaust, on Holocaust memorial day, things won’t improve.
The Israelites will be seen by the left as great betrayers of the anti-nationalist cause and so this lie that Israel stole someone else’s land finds a fruitful place to grow on the left. Whereas we are too Israelite for the radical right, who hate us for our foreign heritage, we’re considered not Israelite enough for the radical left who whitewash our Middle Eastern origins.
All is not lost however. The Palestinians have great qualities which could render them successful and a great neighbor to have should they abandon their prejudice against the Israelite. We must remember to look for that 7% of Palestinians who do not harbor this prejudice and to embrace them tightly. The question remains however, as to how we move forward with this large stumbling block obstructing the peace process and causing antisemitism at the same time. Since Israel and Palestine are to be physically extremely close neighbors, nothing short of extremely cordial relations will suffice for a stable region and such relations are of course not forthcoming. It may as such be prudent to address these theoretical obstacles before moving forward practically.
Taking strides towards an ideological détente with the Palestinians may seem unrealistic. It may even seem crazy but I don’t see any realistic progress being made through any other avenue at this time. I would therefore suggest two reciprocal exchanges of recognition. The first must be that Israelites, all Israelites do originate in Palestine. In return for recognizing this fact, Israel would recognize the Nakba, that hundreds of thousands of Arab-Palestinians lost their homes and were made refugees, with at least partial culpability falling on Israel. Both are iron-clad facts of history and both are extremely central to our respective narratives. The risk stakes for recognition of these two facts are also comparable. The second exchange will be as follows; the Palestinians will recognize that there needs to be an Israelite majority state in the land and Israel will recognize that the Palestinians require a great deal more civil rights than what is currently on offer. Meaning that those in the territories must either get their own majority, fully independent state or get full Israeli citizenship. All talk of gerrymandering, transfer or annexation without citizenship must be consigned to the ideological dustbin of Israeli history. All talk of a full Arab-Palestinian right of return to Israel must be consigned to the dustbin of Palestinian history. Denial of the Nakba or of Israelite heritage in Palestine must be eliminated. I would call these exchanges Ideological Confidence Building Measures. To make this happen though, we do require the right amount of pressure and nurture on the relevant parties and above all, an end to the international culture of tolerating and even disseminating Arab Antisemitism. Is there a Palestinian partner who will answer the call for genuine mutual recognition? Is there even a single Palestinian who will publicly disavow this prejudice and work towards a brighter future that’s free of prejudice on both sides?
[xx] Arafat’s War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest By Efraim Karsh https://books.google.co.il/books?id=EI9h2nD82AIC&pg=PT149&lpg=PT149&dq=Arafat+Jews+ancient+descended&source=bl&ots=GHYSW53_rC&sig=ACfU3U2TfUuzlPyzMc7loY6oQW2rgmgsQQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiM9Yv3lsLoAhUPjqQKHSZQAiMQ6AEwD3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q&f=false also https://zoa.org/2002/05/102176-another-outrageous-claim-by-arafat-ancient-jewish-temple-was-in-nablus-not-jerusalem/
[xxii] https://www.meforum.org/1713/palestinians-jebusites-and-evangelicals. Rashid Khalidi, Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), p. 149.
[xxiii] https://www.meforum.org/1713/palestinians-jebusites-and-evangelicals, p. 253, fn. 13
[xxv] https://www.meforum.org/1713/palestinians-jebusites-and-evangelicals. As’ad Abdul Rahman, ed., Al-Mawsu’at Al-Filastinniya, vol. 2 (Beirut: The Palestinian Encyclopedia Foundation, 1978), p. 667.
[xxviii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1517_Hebron_attacks and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1517_Safed_attacks
[xxix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1660_destruction_of_Safed and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1660_destruction_of_Tiberias
[xxx] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1834_looting_of_Safed, http://www.jewish-history.com/palestine/tiberias.html, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Hebron, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiberias#Ottoman_period and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1838_Druze_attack_on_Safed
[xxxi] Benny Morris (1999). Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001. p. 95. ISBN 978-0679744757., quoting the official history of the Hagana
[xxxiv] http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007667, Lepre, George (1997). Himmler’s Bosnian Division; The Waffen-SS Handschar Division 1943-1945. Schiffer Publishing. . p.125
[xxxv] Sells, Michael A. (2015). “Holocaust Abuse: The Case of Hajj Muhammad Amin al-Husayni”. Journal of Religious Ethics. 43 (4): 723–759. P.747
[xxxvi] Shaul Shay, Islamic Terror and the Balkans, The Interdisciplinary Center Herzilya Project (2007), Transaction Publishers, p. 33
[xxxvii] Schwanitz 2008 citing Abd al-Karim al-Umar (ed.), Memoirs of the Grand Mufti, Damascus, 1999, p. 126. And Achcar & 2010 (b), pp. 151–2.
[xxxviii] Laurens, Henry (2002). Une mission sacrée de civilisation. La Question de Palestine. 2. Paris: Fayard. ISBN 978-2-213-60349-0. P.670, Hilberg, Raul (1973) . The Destruction of the European Jews. New York: New Viewpoints. P.504, Schechtman, Joseph B. (1965). The Mufti and the Fuehrer: The rise and fall of Haj Amin el-Husseini and T. Yoseloff. Pp.154-155)( Achcar & 2010 (b), p. 148.
[xxxix] Das deutsche Ziel würde dann lediglich die Vernicht ung des im arabischen Raum unter der Protektion der britischen Macht lebenden Judentums sein, Lewis, Bernard (2002) . The Jews of Islam. Greenwood Publishing Group. P.190, Schwanitz, Wolfgang G. (8 May 2008) and “Amin al-Husaini and the Holocaust. What Did the Grand Mufti Know?”. World Politics Review. P.126, Achcar & 2010 (b), p. 157