Pretending to be a people (National Post May 14, 2008)
Barbara Kay, National Post
Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2008
What a nation chooses to remember -- as well as what it chooses to ignore -- reveals much about its self-image.
A mature nation's recurrent touchstones will include successes, sorrows and stumbles: ceremonies marking independence achieved or peace restored after war; monuments to the fallen in battle or homeland tragedies; and reconciliatory gestures of accountability for unenlightened or well-intentioned past mistakes.
Last week, her 60th anniversary prompted intense media coverage of Israel's many such defining moments.
The Israeli calendar is crowded with sorrows endured and stumbles acknowledged. But they are more than balanced by poignant successes: a dormant national language restored as the mother tongue of prostitutes and poets; the multi-racial ingathering of persecuted Jews from near and far; and, against seemingly insurmountable odds, steady, democratically achieved advancement measured by all normative benchmarks.
So no matter how reviled or by how many -- and though not quite "a nation like the others," as was the plan -- Israel's flourishing domestic health and readily accessible archive of historical peaks and troughs prove she is by any unbiased definition a viable nation.
The Palestinians will also inevitably arrive at statehood. The zeitgeist of global anti-Zionism joined with the wholesale, uncritical sympathy amongst Western bien-pensants for non-white, non-Western "liberation" movements has decreed that the Palestinians are owed a state.
One may glimpse the scope of their unreadiness, however, at a prototypical Palestinian Web site,www.palestinecalendar.org, which claims to narrate the Palestinian story through emotionally resonant dates "from before the British Mandate and up to today's Apartheid Wall [sic]." In this narrowly selective calendar you will find sorrow in abundant and ghoulishly fond recall, but moments of earned pride, and accountability for internal and external harm done are notable by their absence.
One finds but a single leitmotif: Israeli villainy/Palestinian suffering. Regarding Palestinians' loyalty to terrorist leaders, self-destructive provocations and hate-based "education" of their young, not to mention ambitions emulating Israel's astonishing commercial, technological and cultural successes, there isn't a clue.
The tone is set by the entry for tomorrow, May 15, Israel's birth, superseded for Palestinians as Al Nakba -- "The Catastrophe" -- and described as "Palestine's endless Holocaust."
Typical of both official and amateur anti-Zionist propaganda, the site makes no effort to justify blatant omissions or a careless disregard for factual integrity, to wit:
-The 2002 Jenin "Massacre" (April 3-12) peddles long-discredited myths, including the epithet "massacre."
-The 1948 Deir Yassin Massacre of "250" Arabs (actually 100) is roundly (and legitimately) denounced, but there is no mention of the Arabs' immediate revenge massacre of 77 Jewish nurses and doctors en route to Hadassah hospital (or any of numerous other Arab massacres of Jews).
-Under International Women's Day (March 8), the site's link to "Palestinian women and non-violence" commends Palestinian women's peaceful marches and petition-signings, but is silent on Palestinian mothers' inciting children to suicide.
-No expiation is tendered for the ghastly Palestinian "operation" at the 1972 Munich Olympics, which is here cryptically and misleadingly described as a "shootout and killing of athletes and guerillas."
-Most hypocritically, while the site is subtitled "The ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine" (a gross historical canard), there is no accompanying mention of the 800,000-plus Jews in Arab countries -- immediately absorbed by Israel-- who were truly ethnically cleansed from 100,000 square kilometres of land holdings and denuded of billions in property. (If Israel had marginalized those original Jewish exiles as Arabs did the Palestinians, three million Israelis -- half of Israel's current Jewish population -- would also be "refugees" today.)
The calendar's perverse obsession with the Holocaust and other tropes of historical Jewish suffering reveals its real purpose -- identity theft to deflect observers from the absence of an authentic Palestinian identity, and to obscure a painful truth: The mostly ethnically Jordanian "Palestinians" did not exist before 1948. Absorbed they are politically useless to regional Arab states. But as displaced, persecuted "Jews," they serve to keep Israel hatred on the boil as the sole unifying bond amongst the Arab League's 22 countries.
The Jews were an authentic people for 2,000 years before 1948 and always will be, come what may to Israel. If Israel were defeated, the Palestinians' Arab "brethren" would parcel the land out amongst themselves.
Paradoxically, then, the Palestinians must hope Israel survives. Without real Jews in their midst for their puppet-masters to hate, Palestinians' virtual identity might enjoy electronic longevity, but the chimera of an autonomous nation peopled by "Palestinians" would quickly evaporate into the thin air from which it came.