December 30, 2008, The Jewish Star
It has been well documented that the so-called Palestinian people and their presumed soon-to-be-official nation are in fact mythical entities that have been fabricated to suit various political agendas.
This lie assumes that there is a legitimate struggle for statehood by a people that has a historic national identity. Obviously, the recognition of such a claim is a great threat to our own nationhood, which is truly historic and legitimate, and thus it behooves us to expose the Palestinian myth for what it is. This seems to be something our community subscribes to in unison.
I am therefore puzzled and distressed by a parallel phenomenon that is most striking. The same individuals and publications that have repeatedly exposed this widespread fiction have simultaneously perpetuated it. There is hardly an issue of a Jewish news periodical that is not littered with the term “Palestinian” as referring to Arabs who occupy or wish to occupy Israel. Oftentimes the same publication will feature yet another article documenting how the “Palestinians” are really a fabrication. I can almost see Eliyahu Hanavi wringing his hands in frustration at this bizarre self-contradiction.
My proposal to the editors, writers and readers of our publications is straightforward and logical: if you really believe that there is no such thing as a Palestinian people, then don’t grant the idea any legitimacy by even using the term. Why is it acceptable for our enemies to refer to Israel as a “Zionist entity” and contort themselves out of shape to avoid implying in any way that we have a legitimate claim to our land, yet we feel the need to indulge and accommodate those who perpetuate a truly destructive myth?
I believe that our collective unwillingness to act according to our convictions, as opposed to merely arguing them, is a powerful indication of our continued slave mentality. We content ourselves with scholarly discourse, proving that the game has been fixed against us, yet we go on playing it lest we annoy those who wish to keep playing on those terms. And we lose every time.
We are willing to perpetuate a destructive lie — a lie that is intended to help destroy us — because we are afraid of standing out from everyone we read and hear who takes this lie for granted. We are hard-pressed to find one columnist or newscaster who doesn’t glibly refer to these Arabs as Palestinians, so we feel compelled to follow suit. But why exactly? For what?
Some would say it doesn’t matter if we use the term so long as we know the truth, and that it’s not a battle worth fighting. For one thing, our enemies certainly appreciate the power of language and know that repeating their beliefs as if they are accepted facts only helps their cause. They know that the rest of the world has a long history of taking the path of greatest immediate convenience, and would rather not bother contending the point. It is a lesson our people has largely yet to learn.
But even if we are unable to convince the rest of the world of the lie of Palestinian nationhood — and I believe that to be the case — we only do ourselves harm by using the terminology. Every time we refer to an Arab as a “Palestinian,” we are subtly eroding our own conviction and confidence. By catering to the lie in any small way, we surrender the right, obligation and strength to deny it, and compromise our own identity in the process.
This is the message of Rashi’s first comment on the Torah, where he emphasizes that our right to the land of Israel needs no greater argument than our own history and the fact that G-d gave it to us. This argument will surely sway no one in the United Nations, nor will the Persians (a.k.a. Iranians) be moved to sympathy if a prime minister of Israel ever dared state it. I’m sure Rashi knew this as well.
The point is for us to deeply internalize this message, that Israel belongs to us because G-d gave it to us, even if no one else accepts it. If we cannot influence the actions of our enemies by driving home the truth, we can certainly influence our own.
I have written before about the destructive influence of labels in our community, with a largely ambivalent response. I propose that our community uniformly accept to dispose of at least one label permanently and unequivocally. There is no Palestinian people and there will never be a Palestinian nation. At the very most, we can refer to the occupiers of Eretz Yisrael as “Palestinians” or so-called Palestinians.
Let those who communicate with us get used to it.