Denying history is unacceptable for both peoples

This op-ed in the Jerusalem Post complains about the fact that some Palestinians deny a historical Jewish presence in Palestine, and of course that is a problem. But the article has nothing to say about the mountains of Israeli and pro-Israel propaganda which holds that there is “no such thing as a Palestinian people,” that “there has never been a country called Palestine,” and that the Palestinian national identity and movement is an anti-Semitic and Nazi plot. Such sentiments have appeared in the Jerusalem Post in the past, and in many other Israeli newspapers. They are commonly found on pro Israel sites on the Internet, including David Horowitz’s repulsive and outrightly racist (Horowitz himself rarely refers to the Palestinians without describing all of them as “Nazis”). It is the theme of the film “Obsession,” which the right-wing Israeli organization Aish HaTorah spent millions of dollars distributing free copies of during the last American presidential campaign in a transparent effort to frighten people away from voting for President Obama. It is also the subject of numerous fraudulent books, including Joan Peters’ notorious hoax “From Time Immemorial,” which continues to be a mainstay of anti-Palestinian propaganda among some pro-Israel types. in other words, there is no monopoly on this kind of exclusivist denial of the other’s history, as suggested in the Post op-ed.

Obviously, it is ridiculous and counterproductive for any Palestinians to deny the Jewish link to Israel and Palestine. But it is as least as absurd, if not more so, for friends of Israel and Israelis to deny the very existence of the Palestinian people and national identity, or dismiss the whole thing as an anti-Semitic plot. And, given that there is a secure and thriving Israeli state and no Palestine, the denial of Palestinian history, identity and rights is even more politically problematic than similar obscurantism among Palestinians. It is particularly problematic given that there is presently an Israeli government that is resisting even the idea of the creation of a Palestinian state to live alongside Israel, and cabinet members who are organizing conferences to oppose the creation of a Palestinian state.

It would be more useful if Israelis and Palestinians, and their friends around the world, spent their time educating their own constituencies about the validity of the national narratives and rights of the other people, rather than simply complaining about their recalcitrance. Clearly, there is plenty of important work to be done in this regard on the Palestinian side, but at least as much, if not more, to be done on the Israeli and pro-Israel side.