Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Diasporin, the cream of choice for the fractured heritage of the Jewish people

The self-dubbed New Historians, who sought and still seek to rewrite Israeli history along factual lines based on declassified military and government documents as opposed to national mythology, have just been blindsided by an even newer historian. Their work, specifically Avi Shlaim's, have allowed conversations in my household to move beyond battle lines based on platitudes, but there are still contentious issues in which the Israeli background cannot budge from the notion that the Jewish people are entitled to Palestine, with claims that the Palestinians are less of an identifiable entity than Israelis. An ongoing criticism of their self-determination being that it only started once the Zionists arrived and is really a ploy at keeping up with the Goldmans. This is in spite of recorded attempts at articulating political self-determination in light of Ottoman Rule.
I, for one, cannot understand how Israel makes the Palestinian refusal of recognition an issue when the government line in Israeli, as publicly stated by Golda Meir, was that there was no such thing as a Palestinian people. Despite government rhetoric having softened in that respect (made up for in bullets), it's still a widely held belief. It's also a widely held belief that Israel is historically Jewish land, which makes Palestinians look like opportunists when compared with the diaspora's attempt at reconstituting itself after 3,000 years of exile. Regardless of whether, even after 3,000 years of exile, a group that defines itself as an ethnicity despite it's binding force being a shared belief system can really section itself off on already inhabited land with a country devoted entirely to its people, the fundamental force is the belief that there is a historical legacy with which to justify that abuse of power.
Well, my parents happened to happen upon a book by a Israeli historian Shlomo Sand that basically seeks rectify that misconception by way of historiographic investigation. In a profile interview with Haaretz that will sum up the book far better than my blog entry ever will -
"According to Sand, the description of the Jews as a wandering and self-isolating nation of exiles, "who wandered across seas and continents, reached the ends of the earth and finally, with the advent of Zionism, made a U-turn and returned en masse to their orphaned homeland," is nothing but "national mythology." Like other national movements in Europe, which sought out a splendid Golden Age, through which they invented a heroic past - for example, classical Greece or the Teutonic tribes - to prove they have existed since the beginnings of history, "so, too, the first buds of Jewish nationalism blossomed in the direction of the strong light that has its source in the mythical Kingdom of David."
Now, here's the kicker -
"No population remains pure over a period of thousands of years. But the chances that the Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Judaic people are much greater than the chances that you or I are its descendents. The first Zionists, up until the Arab Revolt [1936-9], knew that there had been no exiling, and that the Palestinians were descended from the inhabitants of the land. They knew that farmers don't leave until they are expelled. Even Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, the second president of the State of Israel, wrote in 1929 that, 'the vast majority of the peasant farmers do not have their origins in the Arab conquerors, but rather, before then, in the Jewish farmers who were numerous and a majority in the building of the land.'"

Whole article here -
Shattering a 'national mythology'
By Ofri Ilani