[News] When Falsehoods Triumph: Why A Winning Palestinian Narrative is Hard to Find

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Nov 14 11:51:37 EST 2013

  When Falsehoods Triumph: Why A Winning Palestinian Narrative is Hard
  to Find

Nov 13 2013 / 2:09 pm

*By Ramzy Baroud*

/(Editor's Note: Ramzy Baroud will be conducting a speaking tour in 
France, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxemburg starting Dec 2. For more 
information click here 

In an initially pointless exercise that lasted nearly an hour, I flipped 
between two Palestinian television channels, Al Aqsa TV of Hamas in Gaza 
and Palestine TV of Fatah in the West Bank. While both purported to 
represent Palestine and the Palestinians, each seemed to represent some 
other place and some other people. It was all very disappointing.

Hamas' world is fixated on their hate of Fatah and other factional 
personal business. Fatah TV is stuck between several worlds of archaic 
language of phony revolutions, factional rivalry and unmatched 
self-adoration. The two narratives are growingly alien and will unlikely 
ever move beyond their immediate sense of self-gratification and utter 

It is no wonder why Palestinians are still struggling to tell the world 
such a simple, straightforward and truthful story. Perhaps it is now out 
of desperation that they expect Israel's New Historians, internationals 
who make occasional visits to Palestine or an unexceptionally fair 
western journalist to tell it.

But what about the Palestinian themselves? This is rare because 
factionalism in Palestine and among Palestinians in the Diaspora  is 
also destroying the very idea of having a common narrative through which 
they can tell one cohesive story, untainted by the tribal political 
mentality which is devouring Palestinian identity the same way Israeli 
bulldozers are devouring whatever remains of their land.

Even if such a narrative were to finally exist, it would likely be an 
uphill battle, for Israel's official narrative, albeit a forgery, is 
rooted in history. On May 16, 2013, Shay Hazkani, described in a 
detailed Haaretz article the intricate and purposeful process through 
which Israel's first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion rewrote history. 
"Catastrophic thinking: Did Ben-Gurion try to rewrite history?" was 
largely based on a single file (number GL-18/17028) in the State 
Archives that seemed to have escaped censorship. The rest of the files 
were whisked away after Israel's New Historians -- Benny Morris, Avi 
Shlaim, Tom Segev, Ilan Pappe and others -- got their hands on numerous 
documents that violently negated Israel's official story of its birth.

"Archived Israeli documents that reported the expulsion of Palestinians, 
massacres or rapes perpetrated by Israeli soldiers, along with other 
events considered embarrassing by the establishment, were reclassified 
as 'top secret'," Hazkani wrote in the Israeli paper. But GL-18/17028 
somehow survived the official onslaught on history.

The lone document spoke of the "evolution of the Israeli version of the 
Palestinian Nakba ?(The Catastrophe?) of 1948." That evolution took 
place under the auspices of Ben-Gurion himself between the years 
1960-1964, where he assigned one scholar after another to basically 
fabricate history, which they surely did. Zionist leaders were at least 
astute enough to understand the power of collective memory, and its 
possible impact on international public opinion. So they tailored their 
own versions of history very early on as to counter future generation of 

Salman Abu Sitta is one of Palestine's foremost historians. The man has 
done more to preserve and document Palestinian historical records than 
any other historian alive. In an interview with Lebanon's Al-Akhbar 
newspaper on August 5, 2012, Abu Sitta was, of course, fully aware of 
the Israeli attempts at restyling history. "The Israeli maps of the 
1950s were nothing more than the British survey of Palestine maps 
overwritten in Hebrew," he said. "From 1960 onwards, the survey of 
Israel department started to issue maps devoid of all these original 
Palestinian names, and replaced with Hebrew ones."

The reference to 1960 retrospectively corroborates Hazkani's story based 
on the enduring file GL-18/17028.

Six and a half decades later that fight continues, between Israel's 
attempts to erase the history of Palestine, while Palestinians, through 
independent efforts (no thanks to the warring factions) try to preserve 
their own. "The war runs along several fronts, not only militarily, but 
it is also a battle over the minds of people...We are not trying to 
obliterate any other history -- we are trying to say that we will not 
allow you (Israel) to erase ours," Abu Sitta explained.

Yet Israel's effort at abolishing Palestinian history never ceased, 
starting with the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages and 
expelling their populations in 1947-48, to rewriting maps, to changing 
names of towns and streets, to manufacturing alternate histories, to 
more recently, outlawing Palestinian memory. Yes, precisely that.

In March 2011, the Israeli Knesset (parliament) passed what is known as 
the "Nakba bill". It financially penalizes any organization or 
institution that perceives and commemorates Israel's founding as a day 
of mourning for Palestinians. The law, officially known as "Budget 
Principles Law (Amendment 39) -- Reducing Budgetary Support for 
Activities Contrary to the Principles of the State," was as a 
continuation of Ben-Gurion's project of physically erasing Palestinians, 
severing their rapport with their own land, and presenting a construct 
of history to the rest of the world -- a history that was deliberately 
misconstrued by few individuals following official instructions.

Alas, a largely invented history that is so focused and well-funded 
seems to trump genuine history that is mostly distorted by the 
incompetence of its owners. True, there are other Abu Sitta type 
historians, who see Palestinians through the transparency of the 
collective, not the distorted prisms of individuals or factions. Their 
voices however are muffled and trounced by overwhelming odds -- the 
Hamas vs. Fatah vs. the rest, the division of the national identity 
based on geography, politics and funds, among other factors.

The current generation of Palestinians is yet to have a fully 
comprehensive, well-funded, long-term national Palestinian project that 
spans limited group interests and geography; one that is manned by 
qualified, well-trained Palestinian historians, spokespersons and 
scholars, so that a broad and unswerving Palestinian narrative can be 
presented throughout the world. All such efforts remain the 
responsibility of single individuals and small organizations with 
limited means, thus with narrowed outreach. But without such a unifying 
platform, it will be immensely difficult for the Palestinian narrative 
to reach the critical mass needed to overpower the fictitious Israeli 
version of Palestinian history which continues to define mainstream 
thinking in many parts of the world, especially in the West.

The work of Israel's New Historians has been immensely valuable, 
although one cannot compare the compassion of such historians as Pappe, 
with the harshness of Morris. The hundreds of other accounts offered by 
outsiders are also important, for they help in creating frames of 
references to which their specific audiences around the world can 
relate. But without a unified Palestinian narrative, massive in its 
magnitude, striking in its consistency, and all-inclusive in its 
presentation, the Israeli story, as fallacious as it is, will continue 
to define the mainstream understanding of history for years to come.

/- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is a media consultant, an 
internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of 
PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom 
Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story 
(Pluto Press)./

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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