Distorting Palestinians’ history

5/4/2007 1:09:00 PM GMT
By Emma Sabry

A Middle East map in a typical Israeli school text book doesn’t show the Green Line which until 1967 separated Israel from Palestinian territories now occupied by the Jewish state.

Israeli children don’t learn that the Israeli side of the Green Line encompasses 78% of what was Palestine in 1947.

Moreover, if you watch the introductory video at Tel Aviv’s Independence Hall Museum, you will not hear or see anything related to the Arabs who lived in Palestine before Israel seized the territory and became a state in 1948.

It is as if the Palestinians do not exist!

Every country is guilty of telling its own version of history, and of trying to show itself as the hero of its own story, says Dr Ruth Firer, a historian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But every narrative has to be flexible enough to let others live by it. If one’s own history is written in a way that doesn’t let others live by it then we have a problem,” she adds.

In the 1980s, some Israeli historians sought to debunk what they call a distorted “Zionist narrative” by writing about the more brutal aspects of their country’s origins, including the expulsions and violence against Arabs.

But their version of Israel’s true history never made it into the mainstream narrative.
The Israelis don’t even know the word “Nakba”, or the “disaster”, which took place after Israel’s creation. The word refers to all the tragic circumstances surrounding the creation of Israel which forced an estimated 900,000 Palestinians to flee their country during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

“If you ask people in Israel about the Nakba the majority don’t know what it is, according to Eyal Danon who works on a project with Israeli Arabs documenting the Arab and Jewish history of Jaffa.

The right of return of Palestinian refugees and the legal status of Jerusalem are among the key obstacles hampering the resumption of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
For example, Israel immediately rejected the Saudi-drafted peace plan — initially introduced in 2002 and revived by the Arab League in March — simply because it doesn’t want the refugees to return to their homeland, arguing that their return could result in the demographic elimination of Israel as a “Jewish state”.

Moreover, the Israelis believe that the Palestinians were not forced to leave their lands in the late 1940s, and thus do not have a right to return and do not deserve any kind of compensation. On the other hand, the Palestinians justify their right of return to what is now Israel because they were expelled as a result of Israeli aggression.

This clearly indicates that the Israelis must study the Nakba and the Palestinian exodus because it was their responsibility, says Eyal Danon.

Only after Israel has dealt with this, can there be dialogue with the Palestinians, she adds.


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