Marc Lamont Hill’s ‘7 Myths’ Are Not Myths at All

Whenever we hear the word “myth,” images of phantasmal creatures often come to mind. Diminutive dwarves, gargantuan giants, sea serpents with seven heads, and birds whose wings are so large they can blot out the sun. Just as frequently, our minds turn to long-discredited theories about the world around us, including notions that the Earth is flat and that climate change is a “liberal conspiracy”.

What doesn’t come to mind are easily verifiable (albeit ideologically inconvenient) facts. And that is what brings me to this article. It is ironic that an author who set out to deconstruct “myths” would put out a piece in which nearly every statement is flat out wrong (or a myth, if you will), but lo and behold.

I believe a fisking is in order. From the top…

“This move was followed by Palestinian protests in the West Bank and Gaza, with Israeli soldiers killing over 50 Palestinians, including children, and wounding over 1,000 others.”

Except it wasn’t a protest. It was a meticulously calculated attempt to breach Israel’s border and kill as many people, especially civilians, as possible. Not even Hamas denies this. What would your country do if over 1000 armed (yes, ARMED) men charged at you with knives, guns, fence cutters, molotovs, and flaming swastika kites while promising to rip the hearts right out of your bodies? Take down your borders and let them do it?

As for the 62 people who were killed, at least 50 of them were known terrorists. Hamas acknowledges this as well.

“1. These people have been fighting forever.

This is one of the most often repeated and inaccurate comments on the conflict. The truth is that Arabs and Jews have not been fighting forever. Rather, it can be dated to the end of the 20th century or, more acutely, the beginning of the post-World War I British Mandatory period.”

Although “forever” is inaccurate, it is no less risible than Marc’s claim that “everything was just fine before the Zionists showed up”. This chestnut has been repeated ad nauseum by anti-Zionists for decades, just like the equally ahistorical (and equally antisemitic) Khazar theory.

Land theft, colonization, dhimmitude, heritage theft, massacres (beginning with the slaughter of Jews at Khaybar, in case anyone is wondering where the Palestinian “Khaybar” chant comes from), expulsions, confiscation/destruction of Jewish cultural sites – the list of injustices committed by Arabs against Jews is very long, and that’s only accounting for the pre-20th century stuff. When it comes to their treatment of Jews, the Arab world (yes, this includes Palestinians) has absolutely nothing to be proud of. “We were marginally less shitty to you than white people were” is not something to brag about. On the contrary, it is something you ought to be deeply ashamed of.

Typically, this is where anti-Zionists interject with “but that was so long ago and they aren’t responsible for what their ancestors did”. But let’s consider this: if Arabs owned all of the land for centuries, and Jews couldn’t live in certain parts of it (and still can’t) and didn’t have the same rights as Arabs (and still don’t), then whether or not they’re “personally responsible” for colonialism is neither here nor there. The fact remains that, until relatively recently, they benefited from and maintained a continued colonial injustice (and still do, to a smaller extent). “That was a long time ago” is not an excuse. It does not justify perpetuating an unjust status quo. It does not free you of the responsibility of accounting for the gains you’ve made at the expense of another people (namely: us), whose dispossession you have long benefited from. For progressives, this argument would not fly in any other context, but it is used liberally in this one, without even the slightest trace of irony or self-awareness.

But alas, it is only natural for a people who have occupied the highest spot on the totem pole for so long to think that “everything was just fine” (fine for you, maybe — it certainly wasn’t fine for us) before the tables were turned. To those accustomed to privilege, equality and redistribution of power often feels like discrimination.

2. “This is a religious conflict”

This is not a myth either. For many Palestinians Arabs (their leadership included), this *is* a religious conflict. It is a religious conflict for nearly 1 billion Muslims outside the Middle East as well, and for millions of anti-Israel Christians both in the Middle East and in Europe. Why else would Hamas’ charter include Islamic hadiths in it? Why else would they regularly invoke the Gharqad tree hadith explicitly commanding Muslims to kill Jews? Why else would the PA exclaim that Jews have “no right to desecrate our holy sites with their filthy feet” in response to Jews visiting the Temple Mount? Why else would the “Khaybar chant” (Khaybar Khaybar ya Yahud/Jaysh Muhammad sa ya`ud/[Remember] Khaybar Khaybar O Jews/Muhammad’s army is coming back) make regular appearances at Hamas rallies and other anti-Israel events?

To wit, both Islam and Christianity are predicated on the assumption of Jewish obsolescence. The belief that we are cursed by God, doomed to forever wallow in exile and degradation as punishment for rejecting the one “true” faith, is a central tenet of both religions. Ergo, the rebirth of Israel and the restoration of the Jews to their land was (and still is) considered an unforgivable affront to the overarching narratives of these faiths, both of whom saw themselves as “successors” to Judaism and the rightful inheritors of the land of Israel.

The author’s claim that religion isn’t a primary driver (if not THE primary driver) of the ongoing crusade against Israel is just flat out ridiculous.

“While majority Muslim, the Palestinian community has always included Muslims, Christians and Jews.”

Incorrect.

Before the 1960s, the moniker “Palestinian” was mainly applied to Jews. The Palestine football team was made up entirely of Jews, and was called “the Land of Israel Football League” in Hebrew. Likewise, the Palestine Bank was a Jewish bank, the Palestine Post was a Jewish newspaper, and the Palestine Brigade was a Jewish army. The flag of Palestine (which was then a province of the Ottoman Empire, not an independent state) had a Magen David on it. The Arabs (most of whom immigrated to Israel during the Mandate period), by contrast, either identified as Arabs or as southern Syrians.

Moreover, the name Palestine (or Syria-Palaestina) is 100 percent colonial in origin. It originates in the Philistines, a Greek settler population who inhabited the coast of Gaza and went extinct more than 2,000 years ago. The Romans would later rename Israel to Syria-Palaestina (or “Assyria and Philistine”) after the Bar Kokhba revolt, both as an insult to the Jews and as a way to remove all memory of Jewish association with their country. The only reason Jews used it in the early 20th century is because, by that point, it was the most commonly understood name for Eretz Yisra’el specifically (as opposed to Greater Syria), and one the gentiles would understand.

“Also, prior to Zionist settlement at the end of the Ottoman Empire”

The first wave of Zionist “settlement” was in the late 19th century. See: the First Aliyah.

“religious diversity was a feature of historic Palestine.”

If by diversity, he means dhimmi apartheid and Arab/Muslim supremacy, then I suppose he’s right.

“The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed” ~ HEW Young circa 1909, taken from “Middle Eastern Studies”, p. 232.

Other sources:  Bernard Lewis, “The Pro-Islamic Jews”, p. 401.
Bernard Lewis, “The Jews of Islam”, p. 158.
Bat Ye’or, “The Dhimmi”, p. 30, 43-44, 56-57.
Louis Gardet, “La Cite Musulmane: Vie sociale et politique”, p. 348.

“Even after Jewish immigration began, Zionist settlers
were mainly secular, as were the indigenous Palestinians….Simply put, this is not about religion. It’s about land theft, expulsion and ethnic cleansing by foreign settlers to indigenous land.”

I didn’t know indigenous peoples (Jews, in this case) could become “foreign settlers” in their own land by being exiled for centuries.

And I didn’t know colonizers (Arabs, in this case) could become indigenous by stealing land and replacing indigenous sacred sites with mosques.

What were you saying about settler colonialism? (Reddit)

Oh wait, they can’t. Because it doesn’t work that way. By Marc’s logic, white people are now indigenous to the United States (or will be in a few centuries) and the aboriginal people they removed will be “settlers” if they ever manage to get their lands back.

This is what anti-Zionists are encouraging.

There was no “land theft” during the Mandate, and the majority of Arab refugees fled their homes without ever seeing a Jewish/Israeli soldier. That’s according to Benny Morris, another favorite of anti-Zionists.

The Jews in Judea/Samaria, on the other hand, were not so lucky.

“3. It’s very complicated.”

The paragraph that follows more or less refutes itself. Fascinating.

“After more than a century of conflict”

Wait, didn’t you say it was LESS than 100 years ago in “myth” number one?

“this is about the 70-year struggle”

And now you’re saying that it was only 70 years?

So which one is it? 70 years or 100+ years? Pick one.

“4. Palestinians keep turning down fair deals.

This argument wrongly presumes that any deal that includes the sharing of stolen land with the victims of said theft could be fair.”

Jewish extremists in the “West Bank” all say the same thing…

With the exception of Damascus and everything north of that (and Philistia, which is a Mycenean-Greek colony), this is what a fully decolonized Levant would look like. (Wikimedia)

Needless to say, I don’t think this is an argument you want to make, as it is one the Palestinian Arabs cannot possibly win.

“Think back to the wildly disproportionate U.N. partition agreement of 1947 that allotted 55 percent of the land to the Jewish population even though there (sic) only comprised 33 percent of the population”

Only half of the land was given back to the Jews, and most of it was indefensible, inarable desert. The only reason we weren’t offered even LESS than that is because the UN anticipated further mass aliyot in the aftermath of WWII. The Arabs got the better deal by far, but they rejected it because they could not stomach the idea of living with Jews as neighbors and as equals, rather than as second class citizens. They were unwilling to give up even a scintilla of the power they had amassed through centuries of colonial rule. They believed the entire region was theirs by divine right, and that they didn’t have to share it with anyone they viewed as “inferior”. To this day, most of the Arab world still refuses to accept Jews as equals, or as anything more than a religious minority at the sufferance of their Arab “betters”. That is why this conflict exists.

The UN partition plan from 1947. Image credit: (Wikimedia)

“[Jews] owned 7 percent of the land”

Curiously, he does not mention how much of the land Arabs owned: 3.3%. The British crown owned about 80-90 percent of it.

“Or look to the 2008 negotiations between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that did not allow for a contiguous Palestinian territory”

Incorrect. Not only did Olmert’s offer include a fully contiguous Palestinian state in J+S (just like Barak’s offer from 2000, which the Palestinians rejected – but instead of a counter-offer, we got an Intifada), it even included a “connector” to Gaza. This offer was, again, rejected with no counter offer.

“Palestinians have never been offered a deal that allows for a truly independent, fertile, sufficient, and secure state.”

Except in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008, but why let facts get in the way?

“5. Palestinians don’t want peace.”

If your idea of “peace” entails either a wholesale genocide/expulsion of Jews or restoration of the post-conquest/pre-Zionist status quo of Jewish subordination (and yes, this is what most Palestinians want), then it’s absolutely fair (and certainly not a myth) to claim that you do not want peace, but rather continued conflict until the other side is “defeated”.

Per his own admission, Marc wants Jews to relinquish what little power and land they managed to regain after centuries of exile and agree to be vulnerable minorities (or worse) once more. That is a demand Israel is perfectly justified in refusing.

Orientalist”

I don’t think anti-Zionists are in any position to hurl this epithet at us, certainly not on contrived and misleading grounds.

Then again, self-awareness was never their strong suit.

“To ask them not to resist is to ask them to die quietly. Occupied people have a legal and moral right to defend themselves.”

Our land has been continuously occupied (by Europeans, and later by Arabs and Turks) for more than 2000 years. When did we lose our right to defend ourselves? When our people were carried off in chains to Europe? When the Arabs invaded our country, brutally supressed those of us who remained, and converted our sacred sites into mosques?

Did we ever have that right to begin with? Or were we, as you put it, supposed to die quietly? And what makes you think the Palestinians, whose population numbers continue to balloon, are at any risk of “dying quietly”? I’d love for you to answer these questions.

“First, this argument is only rhetorically deployed in relation to Israel, as opposed to Palestine or virtually any other nation-states.”

Because only our national rights are challenged on a regular basis by so many people, including yourself.

“Justice is always a precondition of peace.”

Given what your idea of “justice” is (i.e. dispossessing Jews of their land once more and placing it back in the hands of colonists), I think we’ll be waiting a long time for “peace”.

“6. Israel has a right to exist!

This claim is a product of U.S. and Israeli hasbara, a term for propaganda.”

No, this claim is common sense.

And hasbarah is a Hebrew term meaning “explanation”. It does not mean “propaganda”. Antisemites only began applying that meaning to “hasbarah” when they realized terms like “Jewish cabal” could get them in trouble.

“no country has a right to exist, only people do. By naturalizing the idea that nation-states have a “right to exist,” we undermine our ability to offer a moral critique of Israel’s (or any settler-colony’s) origin story.”

So you believe the right of all nation states should be challenged, not for some higher purpose, but only because it prevents you from “morally critiquing” Israel? And do you regularly label liberated/repatriated indigenous states “settler colonies”? Or do Jews get to be special?

“reifies the nation-state, erasing its relatively new emergence as a political imaginary construct.”

That “imaginary construct” is the basis of international law. I suppose you’ll dismiss that as an “imaginary construct” too, but only when it suits your agenda. But if you honestly believe in a world without borders, I invite you to take yours down first. Only then can you lecture Israel on the necessity (or lack thereof) of borders.

“there was never a country called Palestine” argument is both ahistorical and dishonest”

I beg to differ.

There is no such country. Palestine is a term the Zionists invented! Our country was for centuries part of Syria” ~ Auni Bey Abdel-Hadi to the Peel Commission in Jerusalem, circa 1937

 

“There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” ~ Prof. Phillip K. Hitti, testifying at the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry

 

“Such a creature as Palestine does not exist at all. This land is nothing but the southern portion of Greater Syria.. It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria” ~ Ahmad Shukieri, first chairman of the PLO and one of its founders, addressing the UN security council circa 1956

 

“What you call ‘Trans-Jordan’ is nothing more than Palestine”. ~ Yasser Arafat to Italian journalist Orianna Falacci, circa 1970

 

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism”.” ~ PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen to Dutch magazine Truow, on March 31st, 1977

What is dishonest is claiming that such a “country” existed previously and was destroyed by Jews.

“reconstitution of historic Palestine (or contemporary Israel) as a single democracy for ALL citizens”

Israel already is a “democracy for ALL of its citizens”. And I thought you didn’t believe in nation states. You’ve contradicted yourself once more.

For what it’s worth, it’s historic Israel. Palestine is a name for the land imposed by colonists. Israel is what the land was called when the Israelites (a monotheistic nation deriving from southern Canaanites) became a people.

“7. You’re Anti-Semitic!

Anti-Semitism is a very real phenomenon around the globe. And we must be vigilant about addressing and destroying anti-Semitism wherever it emerges. Too often, however, this claim is leveled against anyone who critiquesor protests the practices of the Israeli nation-state.

Under these conditions, allegations of anti-Semitism become nothing more than a reflexive retort, intended to shut down the conversation. More importantly, this is a key part of Zionist strategy: equating Judaism with Zionism and the Israeli state itself. Under this logic, to critique Israel is to critique Judaism. Such arguments also ignore the fact that the Jewish tradition is one that covets justice and fairness, and its principles are in fundamental opposition with the Israeli government’s actions. Hopefully, we can move beyond these arguments and engage in deeper and more nuanced conversations about creating peace, justice and freedom in the region.”

The sheer gentilesplaining audacity of these paragraphs is absolutely staggering. I am almost at a loss for words here.

Marc, listen very carefully to what I’m about to say. Are you ready? Good.

1. You are NOT Jewish. You do not get to decide what is and is not antisemitic. Period. End of story.

2. Where do you get off lecturing us about our culture, especially when you can’t even get the definition of “hasbarah” right? Get back in your lane, fella.

3. You complain of “Orientalism”, only to invoke Orientalist tropes about Jews (i.e. that we are irrational, conspirational, and innately predisposed to lying and trickery for personal/political gain) mere moments later. Good show.

4. Antisemitism is any belief or action, intentional or otherwise, that serves to threaten our national, racial, religious, or political equality. It does not mean “critique of Judaism”, you ignoramus.

5. You obviously consider yourself a progressive, so what makes you think it’s okay to dismiss Jewish claims of antisemitism out of hand? What makes you think it’s okay to decide for us what constitutes antisemitism? Do you do this sort of thing to other minorities? I seriously doubt it.

6. No one, not even the most unhinged right wingers in our community, believes that “criticism of Israel” is a priori antisemitic. Literally NO ONE says that. These Jews who believe that all criticism of Israel is antisemitic are strawman inventions that exist only in the fevered imaginations of antisemites.

7. Denying Israel’s right to exist, demonizing/dehumanizing its people, holding it to a standard expected of no other nation, and hurling libel after libel after libel at it (as you’ve done throughout your entire article, if not your entire career) is not “critique”. It is antisemitism, nothing more.

I suppose it is fitting that I would end this article by deconstructing 7 actual myths that Marc himself promotes. Poetic justice, I suppose.

About the Author
Half-Irish/half-Jewish American activist, musician, and writer.
Comments