As these words were being written, the final two Palestinian freedom prisoners who escaped from Gilboa Prison were caught by the Israeli authorities. Palestine is still reacting to this courageous escape and the consequent re-capture of the six political prisoners who escaped and defied the entire Israeli security apparatus. However, even though they managed to free themselves from this high-security prison, they found a world that doesn’t care. The rest of the world did not step up to save these brave men and did not provide them with sanctuary, and so they were caught.
One of the great tragedies of Palestine is that almost every day there is a commemoration of one massacre or another, the death of a child or destruction of a home or village, leading one to think that the Palestinian narrative is one of death and destruction, which is what Israel wants people to think. But the truth is that this is not the case. The Palestinian narrative is one of a glorious history with periods of great sadness and tragedy. It is the Zionist story that is full of killing, stealing and destruction and not, as they try to sell it, one of creation and growth.
September 16, 2021, marked 39 years since the massacres at Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon. As people remember and mourn the thousands of unarmed civilians who were butchered and the countless who survived suffering terrible injuries and emotional scars, we must also remember the man that stood behind this bloodbath.
This was a man whose complicity even the Israeli authorities could not ignore, the former general and renowned war criminal Ariel Sharon. And although he was momentarily penalized and banished from politics, he very quickly returned, and for a quarter of a century, he was the most powerful and influential man in Israeli politics.
At the end of the day, it is all about the narrative, and we know all too well that Israel has done an outstanding job of erasing the Palestinian narrative and injecting its own mythical, false narrative in its place. In the media, in movies, in literature, in public education, and in politics the false Zionist narrative rules supreme and we who oppose racism and violence are faced with an enormous task as we engage in the work of reversing the narrative – a task without which it is hard to imagine Palestine ever becoming free.
Over the last 100 years, the Zionist movement managed to take the truly incredible history of Palestine and turn it into a historical footnote, replacing it with a mythical story that relies heavily on a Protestant-Zionist, literal reading of the Old Testament, which allowed them to create what is known as “return history.” In other words, the Zionist version of the history of Palestine creates the impression that the Jews returned to their ancient homeland after 2,000 years, making it an unprecedented historical event that overshadows anything else that occurred in Palestine over that bimillennial span.
The Zionist narrative is designed to turn the ancient history of Palestine into a small, unimportant story that cannot be compared with the grandeur of the narrative that is presented by the Old Testament. This is highlighted when Israeli politicians like the current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, refer to the Bible as the source of legitimacy for Israel.
A four thousand-year history
Thanks to the historian Nur Masalha, we now know that the name Palestine goes back close to 4,000 years. We know that the name Palestine was used in Egyptian sources going back to the Bronze Age, more than 1,000 BCE. Later, the name was used by the Assyrians in inscriptions from that era. The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BCE and who is considered to be the father of history as we know it, visited the country and referred to it as Palestine. The Greek scientist and philosopher Aristotle also refers to Palestine by name in his writings.
The cities of Lyd, Ramle, and Yaffa all had remarkable histories, as did the cities of Akka, Haifa, and, of course, Nablus, Gaza, and Al-Quds-Jerusalem. Throughout the Muslim rule of Palestine, cities grew, cultures flourished, economic conditions and trade with Europe allowed people to prosper. Dhaher Al-Umar, who ruled over large parts of Palestine during the 18th century, is seen as the founding father of Palestinian modernity and, according to Nur Maslaha, he was the most influential figure in the modern orientation of Palestine towards the Mediterranean. During his reign in Palestine, there were agricultural and technical innovations introduced that “benefited the majority of Palestinian peasantry.” Thanks to Dhaher Al-Umar, there was considerable growth in the export of cotton, olive oil, wheat and soap.
Other, lesser-known parts of Palestine also flourished throughout history, such as the Palestinian town of Khalasa, which was founded by the Nabatean Arabs in the fourth century and then depopulated by the Zionist militia in 1948. It was known to be on what is called the “Arab incense route” and, according to Nur Masalha, under Arab-Islamic rule, the town, which sits just southwest of the city of Bi’r Al-Saba, was a major urban center.
According to Mansur Nasasra, the Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab had a very profitable export of barley to England for the production of beer. Aerial photos from the early British occupation of Palestine also show large tracts of cultivated land in the Naqab. These lands are now mostly depopulated and the Palestinian Bedouin in the Naqab are prohibited from cultivating their ancestral lands. All of this stands in the face of Zionist claims that they came to a barren land and made it bloom.
The Zionist narrative is arguably responsible for the welcoming and forgiving attitude the entire world has towards the horrendous, unforgivable crimes committed by Israel since its founding in 1948. In order to prevent the next massacre by Israel, a state that seems to have an insatiable thirst for Palestinian blood, we have to reverse the narrative and delegitimize Zionism.
Feature photo | Bilder aus Palästina, Nord-Arabien und dem Sinai, circa 1905. Bernhard Moritz | US Library of Congress