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Tales from Palestinian mythology
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Tales from Palestinian mythology

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat recently claimed to be a descendant of the Canaanites. “I am a proud son of the Canaanites who were there 5,500 years before Joshua bin Nun burned down the town of Jericho” he said in Munich last week.

Ah yes. For a start, the biblical figure of Joshua did not burn Jericho down, rather he caused its walls to collapse. And since the conquest of the city is estimated to have taken place some 3,300 years ago, the “Canaanites tuned Palestinians” would be, according to Erekat, 8,800 years old. Historically, the Canaanites vanished around the 8th century BCE, i.e. way before the Arab conquest of the Land of Israel in the 7th century CE.

The 1947 UN Partition Plan recommended dividing the British Mandate between a “Jewish” and an “Arab” state: it did not recommend the establishment of a “Palestinian state” because no one had ever heard of such a people at the time (as Awni Abd al-Hadi testified to the 1937 Peel Commission: “There is no such country as Palestine … Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”) As for Erekat, he comes from the Huwaitat Arab tribe, which migrated from Medina (in today's Saudi Arabia) to the Levant.

Erekat’s nonsensical statements are far from being isolated: they faithfully express Palestinian mythology. The denial of facts and the re-writing of history constitute an integral part of the PLO’s strategy. Back in December 1998, Dr. Yussuf Alzamili (then chairman of the history department at the Khan Yunis College) instructed Palestinian historians to re-write the “history of Palestine” so as to erase any Jewish presence.

As revealed by Eldad Pardo, a Hebrew University professor who extensively reviewed Palestinian Authority schoolbooks in 2011, Alzamili’s instructions were faithfully followed. In one of the books reviewed by Pardo, the Jewish Quarter does not appear on the map of Jerusalem’s Old City, and the Hebrew inscription was erased from a trilingual (English, Hebrew, and Arabic) post stamp from the British Mandate period. Other textbooks describe the Canaanites as an Arab-speaking people whose land was stolen by Jews.

At the Camp David conference in July 2000, PLO chief Yasser Arafat claimed that King Solomon’s Temple had not been built in Jerusalem but in the West Bank town of Nablus. Arafat later changed his version and said that the Temple never existed at all. He also claimed that the Western Wall is not a remnant of the Jerusalem Temple, that it is a Muslim site called Al-Buraq and the Koran says so (which it doesn't). Arafat also claimed that the Western Wall is part of the Al Aqsa Mosque (in fact, the Western Wall is a remnant of the Second Temple, a remnant that stood 635 years before the construction of the mosque in the year 705). This absurd claim is constantly repeated in Palestinian media, such as the PA's official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida.

As for Erekat’s “Canaanite-Palestinian” theory, it is in fact a widespread Palestinian myth. Erekat himself called Jesus “Palestine’s first martyr” on 31 December 2012. On 24 December 2013, regular columnist Adel Abd Al-Rahman wrote in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida that Jesus is the “son of the Palestinian people” and that “he laid the foundation of the Canaanite identity.” Al-Rahman wrote in the same newspaper on 6 May 2013 that Jesus was a “Canaanite Palestinian.” On 23 June 2013, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote that “the Canaanite Arabs were the first to settle and build Jerusalem. They named it Jebus and lived there uninterruptedly for thousands of years.” Back in 2005, on 18 November, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida wrote that “Jesus is a Palestinian, son of Mary the Palestinian.”

Erekat’s latest “historical” theory exposes the depth and absurdity of Palestinian mythology.

What is the value of the PA officially recognizing the fact that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people if, at the same time, it teaches its children that the Palestinians have been living on this land for 9,000 years, that Jesus himself was Palestinian, and that the Western Wall is a Muslim site?

An old Jewish joke says that there are three proofs that Jesus was Jewish: He inherited his father’s business; he thought his mother was a virgin; and his mother thought he was God.

Palestinian “history” makes the joke fall flat.

Dr. Emmanuel Navon heads the Political Science and Communication Department at the Jerusalem Orthodox College and teaches International Relations at Tel-Aviv University and the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center. He is a Senior Fellow at the Kohelet Policy Forum.

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