By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told NNC Pierce Morgan on March 18, 2011 that he might agree to a Palestinian state through negotiations. And he added, “We will make territorial concessions although it is very painful to do that in our ancestral land.” Netanyahu was not talking about Poland where his ancestors lived. He was talking about Palestine where generations of its indigenous population ancestors lived, cultivated the land and are buried.
By the end of the nineteenth century, Zionism created a new Jewish identity of blood and soil. To mobilize their followers and supporters and appeal to their emotions, the Zionists created myths. Zionism started as a tribal religion without god, but in order to fulfill its function as a unifying force, Zionism required external religious and race symbols, not inner content. Its leaders regarded metaphysical religious belief and purity of race as having value in itself. They created a divine paradisiacal state of merger with the gods. Despite his non-religious ideology, Herzl writings were replete with religious references. The Jews should settle in Palestine because, in his words, “the Temple will be visible from long distance, for it is only our ancient faith that has kept us together”.
The Zionists and their supporters have invested tremendous financial and scholarly resources to work within the Hebrew Bible historical narratives to affirm the links between the intrusive Zionist population and the ancient Israelite past, and by doing so assert the right of that population to the land. The political end-game shaped the investigation and the outcome. Tracing the roots of Israel’s ethnic state in biblical antiquity is effectively to silence the indigenous Palestinians claim to the past and therefore to the land. The Biblical scholarship employs a bewildering array of terms for the region: “the Holy Land”, “the Land of the Bible”, “Eretz Israel”, “the Land of Israel”, or “Judah and Samaria.” To the casual reader these names appear interchangeable, but they all imply connection to ancient Israel.
Biblical narratives or poems that cannot be supported by archeology and common sense are treated by the Zionists and their supporters as historical language. Historians have to differentiate between biblical myths and the history of real people living in real places and real time. They should have the intellectual courage to challenge any source including the “revealed truth” of higher order as presented in Biblical text if it is used to justify injustice and cruelty by one people against another. Gamla, an ethnic cleansing advocacy group founded by former Israeli military officers, Knesset members and settler activists publishes detailed plans for how to carry out the “complete elimination of the Arab demographic threat to Israel” by forcibly expelling all Palestinians and demolishing their towns and villages. This, the plan argued is “the only possible solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and it is “substantiated by the Torah.” Biblical studies have focused on inventing “Ancient Israel” while ignoring the reality of Palestinian history over thousands of years. Many historic experiences related to the ancient Israelite conquest and settlement of Palestine were described in terms of divine acts with religious zeal.
Many scholars, mostly moderate Jewish, who give primacy to archaeology, relegate the biblical text to a secondary place as a historical source. On 2001 Passover, Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Westwood, Los Angeles told his congregation: “The truth is that virtually every archaeologist who has investigated the story of the Exodus [from Egypt], with very few exceptions, agrees that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all.” He based his conclusions on the fact that no archeological findings have produced evidence of the Jews wandering the Sinai Desert for forty years, and the excavations in Palestine show settlement patterns different from the Biblical account of a sudden influx of Jews from Egypt.
Nadva Na’aman of Tel Aviv University wrote, “The comprehensive conquest saga in the book of Jashua is a fictive literary composition aimed at presenting the occupation of the entire Land of Israel, initiated and guided by the Lord and carried out by the twelve tribes under Jashua.” Jashua, the man, was according to the Bible the right-hand man of Moses. After Moses death and the ancient Israelites camping near Jericho, Jashua commenced the military campaigns that, according to the biblical account, culminate in the conquest of the heartland of Palestine where he carried out a systematic campaign against the civilians of Canaan that amounts to genocide.
The historian Giovanni Garbini argues that “we should not even try to write a modern critical history of Israel largely on the basis of a single amalgamated, culturally self-serving, and essentially private version of history [the Bible]?”
Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona writes about the Hebrew Bible that “Many of the biblical stories are legend-like and abound with miraculous and fantastic elements that strain the credulity of almost any modern reader of any religious persuasion. All these factors have contributed to the rise of doubts about the Bible’s trustworthiness.”
In July of 2000, the New York Times ran a lead story under the title, “The Bible, as History, Flunks New Archaeological Tests.” Questioning the biblical stories of the Exodus and Conquest that recounts in lavish and dramatic detail of the ancient Israelites exodus from Egypt and establishing themselves in Palestine, calls into question the Zionists’ rationale for Jewish claims to Palestine.
The American archaeologist and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor, Joseph Callaways wrote in 1985 when he discovered that the city of Ai that is described in the Bible did not exist: “For many years, the primary source for the understanding of the settlement of the first Israelites was the Hebrew Bible, but every reconstruction based upon the biblical traditions has floundered on the evidence from archeological remains.”
The Bible and the claim of the Jews as a distinct race have been used as a tool to cement the inner unity of the Zionist movement and an indispensible weapon in the struggle for claiming the land of Palestine. The religio-historical element as a focus of national identity had greater importance in Zionism than in other national movements. It was religion in the broadest sense, with all its national and historical connotations, that provided the justification for the conquest of Palestine and legitimization of Jews’ return.
Although Semitic originally referred to certain languages and peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean that included not only Jews but also Palestinians, Assyrians, Babylonians and Phoenicians, claim of hostility only toward Jews is generally known as anti-Semitism.
Jews are a religious body, not a separate biological human group. The history of the Jews reveals that they have always interbred with non-Jews and many non-Jews have become Jews. The only valid criterion for determining membership in the group is confessional.
By insisting that a cultural trait, Jewishness, is inherited, the self-proclaimed Jews have contributed to the idea that they belong to an exclusive family, a distinct race, and a chosen people. Under Israel’s “Law of Return” of Jews to Israel, Ethiopian Jews (Falashas) were verified as descendents of an ancient Israelite tribe by testing samples of their males DNA Y-Chromosome. The claim of identifying the Jewish DNA is the pinnacle of charlatan science, an ideology driven hoax!
There was no written history prior to 3,200 B.C. (Before Christ) on Palestine, but archeological excavations suggest the existence of people living in Palestine as early as 8000 B.C. As far as the period of pre-pottery stone-age between 8000 and 5000 B.C, Palestine and Syria were inhabited by farmers and hunters. Their progression from simpler to more complex culture was evidenced in the development of farming technique, the domestication of animals and the establishment of towns.
Ancient Canaanites ruled all Palestine and Jordan until around 1200 B.C, when the Philistines conquered the southern coastal area. Archaeologists found evidence that Canaan migrant tribes settled Palestine and Jordan in the later period of the fourth millennium B.C. Pottery containing offerings in graves suggest the Canaanites believed in after-life. The Canaanite known history coincided with the Early Bronze Age that began around 3200B.C, but some of their settlements have been dated as old as 7000 B.C.
The indigenous Palestinians, the legitimate owners of the land, are the descendents of Ancient Canaanites, Philisti nians, ancient Hebrews, Assyrians, ancient Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Christian crusaders and Turks. The groups that lived in Palestine fought, interacted and collaborated, but no group was obliterated.
Modern historians, writers and statesmen should liberate themselves from the biblical myths when reviewing history even if they believe in a revealed truth in their private lives. The challenge for them is to sort out fact from fiction. Palestine belongs to its indigenous population not the hordes of foreign settlers.
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.