What is the Palestinian Narrative?

Nations have a narrative that explains their culture, their common shared experiences, beliefs, rituals, symbols and stories. The narrative explains the laws of the people and teaches the language that binds them together.

Nations are also defined by their borders, yet the Jewish people maintained a nation without defined borders for almost 2000 years.

Now the Palestinian people want a defined border for their nation. But they don’t seem to have a story, a narrative specific to them. They have been seconding the stories of others in an attempt to make one of their own. And they have chosen stories that portray themselves as victims, aligning themselves with others who have been victimized.

Their story begins with “The Naqba,” the Day of the Catastrophe, the day after the date for Israeli Independence. For the Palestinians it is an annual day of commemoration of the displacement of their people.  It is a sentiment reminiscent of the feelings of the German people following WWI and the implementation of the Treaty of Versailles, a treaty that redefined borders.

For the Germans, it was their day of catastrophe, their Naqba. And the German anger over the humiliation of the loss of the war and what they viewed as onerous reparations were fed by their leaders until the hate reached such a level that it spilled over into WWII and then the Holocaust.

Arab countries decided to attack Israel the day of the mandate. Like Germany, they started the war. And like Germany, they lost. They lost. In 1948, in 1967, in 1973.  They’ve nursed those losses over the decades; nursed the anger, the shame. It’s like the story of the Germans after World War I and the Versailles Treaty.

Then, ironically, after the Holocaust the Palestinians turned themselves into the “new Jews.” The victims.  The Palestinians took the story and the language of the Holocaust and tried to make it theirs. They say they are being abused by the new Nazis-now played by the Jews, whom they say are ethnically cleansing and committing genocide against them. They want the world to see them as victims of horror, as helpless, not realizing that the Jewish people have fought not to be viewed as helpless victims.

Then the Palestinians found another story; from the Holocaust to apartheid South Africa. They want the world to see them as victims of colonization; a dark-skinned group of people being ruled over by white skinned, racist imperialists. They see themselves as victims of a policy that denies them the right to walk on the same side of the street, drink from the same water fountains, shop in the same stores, go the same movie theatres, as the Israelis-or Jews. They are in essence claiming a total separation of two peoples. Except, there is no division based on race, or colour or religion.

In comparing themselves to the non-whites of South Africa, they are actually demeaning and denigrating the horror of apartheid and the life lived under such racist conditions. I find myself trying to understand this desire to kidnap the history of another people.

Comparing their life with South Africans wasn’t enough. They recently began to ally themselves with the plight of the Aboriginal First Nations of Canada. They want to be seen as the indigenous people of the Holy Land.

When I wrote the article comparing Jewish and Native narratives, I received comments that said, no, the Natives and the Jews don’t share anything in common. It’s the Palestinians that share the victimization of white colonizers who expropriated their land. One response: “In fact, it is Palestinians who share a similar history with Canada’s First Nations. Apart from being descendants of “Original Aboriginal People,” both have been occupied, dispossessed, expelled, oppressed and segregated by foreigners.”

And then I read another comment, by a member of the Métis tribe, Ryan Mervin Bellerose, from Paddle Prairie, a Métis settlement/reserve: “The Jews culture, language and traditions were all forged in the Holy Land, they alone can make that claim, and denying them their rightful indigenous status is a direct attack on ours.”

Not all Canadian aboriginal people want their story taken over by the Palestinians.

The problem for the Palestinians is their lack of a national story, a uniquely Palestinian history, a narrative of their own, shared stories and beliefs. The only stories in the Palestinian narrative are ones that have been plagiarized from other peoples, other nations and then bastardized to fit what they believe the media will swallow and regurgitate. Stories of woe for the sole purpose of spreading pernicious propaganda and fantasy history.

Rather than choosing stories that glorify hope, freedom, courage, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, peace, order and good government, the Palestinians have chosen the narrative of failure, shame and victim-hood, stories that serve only one purpose-feeding hate of “the other.”

Nations that thrive aren’t built on a foundation of hate.


About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "