+972 Magazine's Stories of the Week

Directly In Your Inbox

Analysis News
Visit our Hebrew site, "Local Call" , in partnership with Just Vision.

Room for a Palestinian narrative: A response to Mishy Harman

TEDx Ramallah was an event which highlighted the ability of an occupied people to maintain an active and vibrant culture. Authors, entrepreneurs, musicians, poets and filmmakers harnessed the power of  new media in order to show the world that Palestine is not just a place of conflict and struggle but also one of cultural production. The result, by most estimations, was a resounding success. However, some did not agree.

Writing in The New Republic, Hebrew University doctoral candidate in archeology Mishy Harman shapely criticized TEDx Ramallah describing the event as full of venomous rhetoric towards Israel and the peace process. Confessing that he was once a leftist but after the event he transformed into a Zionist leftist, Harman carefully distorts the nature of the event in order to reach the conclusion that ‘some’ on the Palestinian ‘left’ at TEDx Ramallah were calling for the end of Jewish self determination. His arguments against TEDx Ramallah primarily revolve around the Palestinian refugee issue. The refugee issue is perhaps the most salient component of the cultural, political, social and intellectual experience of the Palestinian people. Harman fails to recognize that TEDx Ramallah was a Palestinian event which explored the Palestinian narrative and did not attempt to address political solutions or Israeli concerns.

Harman’s transformation from a human rights minded leftist struggling for Palestinian rights in the face of occupation to a selfish ‘strategic’ Zionist who yearns for complete separation and the creation of an ethnically pure Jewish state is sadly based on a complete misunderstanding of the Palestinian narrative.His misunderstanding is presented in the form of half truths and misrepresentations. The following paragraph is a small slice of Harman’s handiwork in which he incorrectly describes the content of the event.

Whether it was the elderly gentleman who lamented how borders are an unnatural addition to the pristine hills of his childhood, or the Palestinian-American businessman from Youngstown, Ohio, who argued that the only just solution to the conflict is a full right of return for the Palestinian refugees of 1948, many seemed to be saying the same thing: No longer is a two state solution desirable, and one state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is the only acceptable outcome.

Herman is here referring to the acclaimed Palestinian lawyer and writer Raja Shedadeh, who bemoaned not the borders which Israel has created (last time I checked there were no borders between Israel and the West Bank or maybe only ‘indefensible’ ones) rather the checkpoints and walls which scar the landscape. Even extremist settlers will argue, albeit to different ends, that Israel’s infrastructure of occupation in the West Bank destroys the natural beauty of the biblical scenery.

Harman goes on to describe Sam Bahour, a Palestinian born in the United States, as arguing that the only just solution of the conflict is the full right of return of Palestinian refugees. In fact, Bahour spoke eloquently about how his father, a Palestinian refugee, is not allowed to enter the country of his birth. This personal story spoke directly to the saga of many who were forced to attend TEDx Ramallah in Beirut and Amman because Israel denied them entry into the West Bank, where the event was held.

Far from arguing against the two state solution, these stories provided context and colour to the Palestinian experience. They were points of reference designed to explore the Palestinian reality, a reality based on exile and oppression. Because the event was broadcast worldwide on the Internet, the reflections of Mr. Bahour and Mr. Shedadeh provided a crucial framework from which outsiders could begin to understand the conditions under which Palestinian culture is created.  I doubt that Harman would take issue with Israelis sharing their narratives of loss and tragedy such as the Holocaust in order to explain Israeli culture. Why then, are the Palestinians pandering to political aspirations when they explore their own experience?

Harman is correct that the issue of the Palestinian refugees was present in Mr. Bahour’s speech and other parts of the program. I heard him discuss of the pain of exile and how that effects Palestinian society. It was clear to me that the refugee issue formed the core political, social and cultural component of Palestinian society in the same way that return to the Land of Israel is a fundamental component of Jewish cultural, intellectual and religious existence.

Culture is not produced in a vacuum and is reflective of the historical experience of those that produce it. It seems silly to note but Harman fails to understand that Palestinians exploring the refugee issue at a cultural event are not necessarily doing so in order to bring about the end of Israel or discuss political solutions. During the entire program, I only heard Israel refereed to in passing as in the case of describing a checkpoint or an Israeli doctor.  As an Israeli and as a Jew, I felt welcomed, accepted and part of the unique event. The event, quite simply, was about Palestinians and not Israel.

Harman’s reaction to what he experienced at TEDx Ramallah reflects his own insecurity regarding the intersection of liberal values and Zionism’s incompatibility with the Palestinian narrative. I understand his dilemma and it is one facing all of us, both Palestinians and Israelis. Arguing that the Palestinians are no longer interested in the two-state solution or are secretly calling for an end of Jewish self determination because they are intellectually wrestling with existence under occupation displays a mentality of domination. Palestinians have been forced to wrestle with the history of 2000 years of Jewish exile and we correctly condemn them when this history is simply written off. A deeper understanding of the refugee issue would help liberal Zionists like Harman to engage with and eventually recognize the Palestinian narrative even if they have personal reservations.

Harman’s TEDx Ramallah pickle reminds of a remarkable description of certain liberal values in Israel by an immigrant American Doctor as told to Hatim Kanaaneh in his memoir, A Doctor in the Galilee. Describing a usual intellectual transformation regarding Palestinians which takes place among American immigrants once they begin a new life in Israel, the doctor speaks  almost directly to Harman’s thinking about the Palestinian narrative he encountered at TEDx.

It takes about two years from the time of immigrating to Israel for your typical Jewish liberal to convert to the local brand of liberalism and accept the general attitude of hostility to all things Arab. Expect that in the case of ‘true liberals’ such attitudes become wrapped in multiple layers of pious explanations and self righteous contortions, enough to make the racism palatable, at least to themselves. I personally prefer the settler types, the violently hostile Uzi-toting goons. They are scary enough for me to keep my distance from them and to convince myself that their views are trite and their threats ignoble. Easier to handle than the liberals’ manipulations.

Recognition of the centrality of the refugee issue to Palestinian culture does not give the right of return political legitimacy. It is a necessary step in understanding the Palestinian narrative which, if ignored, deepens the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.


Sam Bahour has sent me the following update regarding the piece.

My father is NOT a refugee (he is from smack middle of the West Bank) and STILL is not allowed to enter the country of his birth except as a US citizen and only for 3 month maximum (many times less) visits. My words were reciting what my father saw when refugees from what is now Israel showed up homeless on his West Bank yard in 1948.

Before you go...

A lot of work goes into creating articles like the one you just read. And while we don’t do this for the money, even our model of non-profit, independent journalism has bills to pay.

+972 Magazine is owned by our bloggers and journalists, who are driven by passion and dedication to the causes we cover. But we still need to pay for editing, photography, translation, web design and servers, legal services, and more.

As an independent journalism outlet we aren’t beholden to any outside interests. In order to safeguard that independence voice, we are proud to count you, our readers, as our most important supporters. If each of our readers becomes a supporter of our work, +972 Magazine will remain a strong, independent, and sustainable force helping drive the discourse on Israel/Palestine in the right direction.

Support independent journalism in Israel/Palestine Donate to +972 Magazine today
View article: AAA
Share article
Print article

    * Required


    1. directrob

      “Palestinians have been forced to wrestle with the history of 2000 years of Jewish exile and we correctly condemn them when this history is simply written off”
      I think the 2000 years of exile is part of religious/cultural history, not of worldly history based on facts. I think “correctly condemn” is way too strong. It defies logic. The religion was in exile not necessarily the people.

      Reply to Comment
      • Excellent point directrob. Upon review the sentence, I do believe that it was a touch harsh. The point that I am driving at, which I think is clear, is that when Israelis talk of exile and the horrific events of the 20th century which drive their understanding of needing a Jewish state it is part of a national cultural, intellectual, religious and political understanding. Palestinians can logically respond with, ‘that is none of our business here. We are not responsible for your exile but you are responsible for our displacement and the destruction of our society.”

        This will not get us anywhere. Thus, both narratives of exile, dispossession and desire for return must be understood first on a cultural and intellectual level if there is to be any hope for political reconciliation.

        Reply to Comment
    2. David

      I don’t understand why you didn’t just point out that Mishy isn’t really a former “human rights minded leftist struggling for Palestinian rights in the face of occupation”. Instead, he’s just a liar who positioned himself to appear as such so he could publish in the New Republic.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Ben Israel

      I have no interest in learning the Palestinian “narrative” and I have no expectation of them learning ours. Their “narrative”, for example, says there was never a Beit HaMikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. Since that is a blatant falsehood, why should I spend time empathizing with them thinking that?
      All of this thinking is post-Modernist gobbledygook. France and Germany managed to finally get over a couple of centuries of extreme mistrust, NOT by “understanding each other’s narratives” but by having Germany suffer a devastating defeat in World War II and, as a result, having its people understand that their Germanic dreams of conquering Europe ended up destroying them.
      Shi’ites and Sunni Muslims have been in a state of hostility with varying degrees of violence between them for something like 1300 years. I don’t see any evidence of them “understanding each other’s narratives”.
      Regarding the Palestinians, how can you expect them to understand our “narrative” of the Holocaust when it doesn’t mean anything to them. A recent poll of Israeli Arabs showed that something like 40% of them view it as a myth. But even for those who think it did happen, I have to ask how can we expect them to understand our view of it? Within the Arab world, in recent years there has been fratricidal slaughter of Arabs killing each other in Iraq, Algeria, Lebanon, now in Libya and in other places. Arabs in other countries don’t react viscerally to these atrocities which are happening to their brothers, so how can you expect them to care about the Holocaust which happened to their enemies? The Arabs were on the sidelines of World War II, they can’t view Hitler as the monster Europeans do because he was an enemy of the British and French colonialist, the Jews and the Wall Street Capitalists of America, all of whom are viewed to this day as oppressors of the Arabs.
      Thus, your dream of reconciliation by way of mutual understanding is just not realistic.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      JD, I cannot assess your claim that Mr. Harman flatly lied about what was said in the event, but if you’re fully right then it must have been a remarkably elitist event, given that the majority of Palestinians in their vote and answers to surveys clearly state that they reject the notion of a Jewish state
      “‘some’ on the Palestinian ‘left’” – I’d assume that a Palestinian “left” is one advocating for Jewish RoR = Zionism…
      “when Israelis talk of exile and the horrific events of the 20th century which drive their understanding of needing a Jewish state …”
      You know very well that Zionism is older than that
      “Recognition of the centrality of the refugee issue to Palestinian culture does not give the right of return political legitimacy.”
      Fully agree
      “It is a necessary step in understanding the Palestinian narrative which, if ignored, deepens the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.”
      Disagree with the implicit assertion, as most Israelis are well aware of the Palestinian narrative but simply don’t agree with their culpability, knowing who instigated the tragedy
      I don’t know what Mishy Harman’s ideas were before his “conversion”, but it sounds like following the event he had to re-evaluate his understanding of the “narrative” and therefore his personal risk assessment.
      After all, you also write “Palestinians exploring the refugee issue at a cultural event are not necessarily doing so in order to bring about the end of Israel or discuss political solutions” – indeed, ‘not necessarily’, but he felt that it did happen, too often, where you did not feel it.
      It sadly sounds as if “liberalism” means one mind for all

      Reply to Comment
    5. Waleed

      @ directorob , who lived there before the existence of Judaism ? you wanna go back 2000 years ago ,we go back to 4000 years ago

      Reply to Comment
    6. Ben Israel

      Waleed- I don’t think you can prove you were here 4000 years ago. You do not speak Canaanite or Philistine, you do not worship their deities, you do not have their culture and considering that people have been moving in an out of the area conintuously for millenia (e.g. one of the big clans in Hevron is al-Masri which means “the Egyptians”) you can not prove your ancestors were here then. The Jews ARE speaking the same language, practicing the same religion, have the same culture as they did 4000 years ago.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Samar

      “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Monster

      So, Ben Israel, they are the same people but because they’ve grown, progressed, and changed over the millenia to worship God differently and speak a different language, they aren’t the same, and therefore somehow “lesser” than people who refuse to change, refuse to acquiesce to the world around them, refuse to negotiate as equal partners for peace, and refuse to stop illegal activities even under pane of UN Sanctions?

      Where is your logic? Palestinians have every right to Palestine. Jews can live in Palestine, but they do not have a “right” to it because their “holy” book says so.

      Reply to Comment
    9. O.Selznick

      @Josep Dana

      Agree with your points in the article, especially the last sentance that reads “Recognition of the centrality of the refugee issue to Palestinian culture does not give the right of return political legitimacy”

      Israelis need to stop being scared about it.
      on the other hand,you wont hear alot of palestinian refugees of 48′ saying they want to build a palestinian state on the 67′ borders. they state their will go to back to haifa, jaffa, Ramle and so on.
      and it would be abit naive to deny that there is no political element to it (not saying you are).
      but this is the core question – will there ever be a palestinian leader brave enough to tell these people that they are not going back to these places?
      and second question, politically, do you think they should return Josef Dana? what is your take on this from the political angle?

      Reply to Comment
    10. Janna

      Dear Ben Israel,
      I’m sure you’re already aware that even David Ben Gurion (among other prominent early Israelis and Zionists) believed today’s Palestinians to be descendants of the ancient Israelites who chose to leave their (formerly Jewish) religion rather than their land.
      That’s not even to bother with whether or not the ancient Israelites actually practiced exclusively Judaism, as you seem to believe, or the fact that the Hebrew language was revived here rather than continually used as a regular language, and that modern Israeli culture bears scant resemblance to biblical Israelite culture.

      Reply to Comment
    11. D.S.

      “Recognition of the centrality of the refugee issue to Palestinian culture does not give the right of return political legitimacy.”

      But if you recognize the right of return as a right, how could it not have political legitimacy?

      Reply to Comment
    12. clien

      Thank you Joseph for this article. What I liked most about the TedX event was that it was focusing on a positive approach to success stories and daily realities of Palestinians. There was space for self critique as well as expression of frustration and no, it was not an event specifically focusing on peace with Israel, but certainly also not on the contrary. It was, like Joseph said, one of cultural production. I like to believe that there is a new culture being created amongst Palestinians, which is focused on gathering talent and success stories as a basis for the future. TedX Ramallah gave a stage to many of these people, it showed the world a huge amount of Palestinian talent, ready to contribute to their country and culture. That is it, to me.

      Reply to Comment
    13. max

      Janna, Ben Gurion did not believe that today’s Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Israelites. What he believed – and wrote – is that some of them may be descendants of the ancient Jews. If you have sources to substantiate your radically different claim, please provide it.
      You seem to mix the personal and national aspects. Ben’s point is that at the national level, the affinity of the Jewish people to the land of Israel is undeniable, while the Palestinian nation is an early 1920’s phenomena, regardless of the possible personal ties of some of its members (while the claim is possible, there’s zero factual evidence to it).
      The more important point is that the Israeli center (what you’d call Right) is willing to live side by side with a Palestinian state, as long as its own security is manageable, while the Palestinian center (there’s no Palestinian Left that I’m aware of) is not willing to recognize Jewish Israel (the Jewish right), in any shape or form.

      Reply to Comment
    14. janna

      Can you please explain the difference between ancient israelites and ancient jews? isn’t a main point of zionism that today’s jews are thought to be the decendants of the ancient jews who are understood to have comprised ancient israel?
      you seem to think that judaism was considered a nationality before the advent of zionism.
      does the Palestinian “state” you claim the israeli “center” to be willing to live beside get to have the same trappings as normal states, like control of its own borders and airspace and its own defence force? will it have its own borders with jordan and egypt and its capital in east jerusalem? or will it be a small semi-autonomous area cut up by settlements and a permanent israeli presence in the jordan valley?

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ben Israel

      Yes, I am aware of Ben-Gurion’s and Ben-Tzvi’s thesis that the Palestinians are decendents of the ancient Jews. Even if it were true, it is irrelevant. First of all, Ben-Gurion publicized this with the odd theory because he wanted to show that the modern Palestinians would ‘welcome their long lost brothers’, which is preposterous.
      Second, even if it is true (which I don’t believe), the Palestinians don’t consider themselves Jews and probably would be offended if they were told this, because Jews have a very negative image in the Qur’an and Islam.
      This is a return to the popular early 20th century idea that race and genetics determine everything. Nazism put some of those theories into the “politically incorrect” realm, but they are coming back now as yet another weapon against Israel (“see the modern Jews are usupers, the ‘real Jews’ are the modern Palestinians).
      After all, many of the top Nazis had Jewish blood, or were at least rumored to have Jewish blood…did that make them any friendlier? The list includes Hitler himself, Reinhard Heydrich-SS architect of the Holocaust, Ehrhard Milch-no 2 man in the Luftwaffe after Goering, Field Marshal von Manstein and others.

      Reply to Comment
    16. max

      Janna, “… the difference between ancient israelites and ancient jews”
      Depending on languages, the words Jews, Israelites and Hebrews are interchangeable. I’ll refer to the usage in English, in which the Jewish people, are a nation and ethno-religious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East.
      The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation. In some languages you’ll find distinct terms used when referring to ethnicity vs. religion.
      As there’re disagreements amongst scholars on some details, I’ll stick to the common ground.
      The Hebrews encompass the tribes that conquered the land comprising large parts of what’s now called Israel, and then some. They called their land Israel and were known as Israelites (first mentioning is from approx. 1000 BC).
      By the time of the Assyrian empire, Israel was divided into 2 kingdoms: Israel in the north, Judea (named after the dominant tribe) in the south. The Assyrians conquered the Israeli kingdom and dispersed its people around its empire; we lost track of those tribes and refer to them as “the lost tribes”. Shortly after (approx. 150 years), the Babylonians also conquered Judea.
      However, many of the dispersed Israelites and Judeans returned to Israel – and Judea – during the time of the Persian Empire; some did keep their roots over those 2,500 years in their new countries.
      The “modern” Jewish Diaspora was the result of the wars around (+/- 200 years) the time of the destruction of the Judean 2nd kingdom at 69-70 CE, and finally as a result of the Jewish rebellion at 135 CE. The name Jewish is derived from Judea.
      Complex? Not so much, if you don’t apply modern national structures on a nation that was created some 3,000 years ago.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Janna

      Thanks for the history lesson, Max, though I’m already well-versed. I don’t think any of what you’ve written to me is relevant to my original comment to Ben Israel.

      Ben Israel, you told Waleed that you don’t believe he’s correct to claim a 4000 year Palestinian history here. While I can’t comment on that number, I simply pointed out that it’s possible that Palestinian history here is just as long as Jewish history is believed to be, if Palestinians are the descendents of ancient Jews as many early zionists believed them to be. The reasons why DBG & friends put forth the argument and whether or not it would (have) create(d) some sense of brotherhood is actually irrelevant to my point.

      Reply to Comment
    18. max

      Janna, “does the Palestinian “state” you claim the israeli “center” to be willing to live beside” – so many doubts in so few words, impressive!
      But I don’t “claim” about the Israeli center. Look up Dahlia Scheindlin’s article on 972mag http://972mag.com/what-do-israelis-think-of-1967-borders-with-swaps/.
      Now try to be fair, and show us the equivalent Palestinian views.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Janna

      also, to Waleed: If I’m correct in thinking that the “we” to whom you refer is Palestinians, I think you may have mistaken the tone and purpose of DirectorRob’s original comment.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Janna

      Hi Max. Thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice any mention of the details I brought up earlier. When one speaks of a Palestinian state, it’s unfortunately necessary to get into deep nitty-gritty details as to how they define “state” in this instance. Most people conceptualize a “state” as having control of its own borders, water, airspace, etc, but unfortunately the “Palestinian state” envisioned by some people has none of these. To the rest of us, this is not a “state” at all.

      Reply to Comment
    21. max

      Janna, I was only answering your question. You now say it wasn’t an honest question, pity for you.
      But if you indeed knew already what I wrote, then – as Ben stated – you’re knowingly transforming a national struggle into a racial one. Shame on you.

      Reply to Comment
    22. max

      Janna, many states – including in Europe – live happily with no control over their curency, airspace, security… it’s geo-political reality. Ignore this and you’re paving the road for more tragedies.

      Reply to Comment
    23. Janna

      Max, my original question to you was rhetorical, which I thought was pretty clear. I’m sorry you didn’t get it.
      I don’t agree that I’m making a “national struggle into a racial one”. I’m not at all sure why you’d suggest that. I’ve discussed neither “nation” or “race” but rather ancestry, and I don’t believe I’ve actually commented at all on any struggle.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Janna

      Max, please note that you were the first to mention currency and “security”. If you’re referring to the EU, that is a federation joined voluntarily by its members. They don’t live without control over their currency, they chose to share a common currency. They each also maintain their own armies, and I’d be surprised to hear that some foreign country controls European airspace.

      Reply to Comment
    25. max

      Small countries wouldn’t have their own air-control systems for practical reasons; Andorra, Panama, Lichtenstein, Monaco… don’t have their own currencies, again for practical reasons.
      Countries with strong political differences with their stronger neighbors will not have full autonomy in security matters (think US, Russia).
      In short, a country can be free without necessarily “enjoying” all the aspects you mentioned: some by choice, some by pressure.
      These are the geo-political realities.

      Reply to Comment
    26. max

      Janna, you followed in Saeed’s footsteps. He took the issue of Jewish exile (the cultural affinity of the Jewish people to the land of Israel) and claimed a longer history of Palestinians in this land.
      Note that he couldn’t talk of thousands of years of exile (nor did he mention the Jewish aspect of this supposed history – see Ben’s comment on why he wouldn’t do it); he used the claim as a political argument.
      So Saeed took up the racial issue and you followed.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Janna

      Max, I don’t understand why you keep talking about currency and security.
      I’ll assume that you’re correct that the countries you’ve mentioned voluntarily allow another party control of their airspace for “practical reasons”; the Palestinians have not agreed to have Palestinian airspace controlled by Israel, and one can’t simply expect a future sovereign state will forfeit its rights on the issue.
      Finally, I’m afraid you and I have different ways of conceptualizing the word “race”. That’s the only conclusion I can come to, since you insist I’ve somehow commented on the subject.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Ben Israel

      “Recognition of the centrality of the refugee issue to Palestinian culture does not give the right of return political legitimacy. It is a necessary step in understanding the Palestinian narrative which, if ignored, deepens the divide between Israelis and Palestinians.”

      Commentary: Ah, yes, when the Palestinians emphasize the centrality of the Right of Return, they don’t really mean they are going to demand implementation of it. You know Arabs, they say things but they don’t really mean them.

      Okay, so please explain to me what it means if they don’t really expect a right of return. They don’t care if we “empathize” with them, because that doesn’t mean anything. The Right of Return is NOT a “humanitarian issue”, it is POLITICAL and they will not give it up.

      Reply to Comment
    29. max

      Janna, you’re right on both accounts.
      1. I expanded (your “etc.”) the issue of “normal states” to show that “normality” has a wide range.
      – airspace is an obvious security topic. I assume that the sides will negotiate an operational understanding of how Palestinians can control their airspace without creating grave security concerns. I don’t see it logical to assume that all their air traffic will be controlled by Israelis.
      – water is a strategic topic around the world, notably in the ME. I read several studies concluding that the next wars will focus on water.
      So assuming that this issue will not be negotiated is quite naive.
      Again, I don’t see that the Palestinians will drink water from Israeli pipes, but the exact distribution of the resource will be negotiated, if only to avert another war.
      2. We obviously have a different view on consists a race-related comments.
      A claim is made, whereby as part of the blood running in the veins of Palestinians comes from earlier inhabitants of the region (you added Jewish), this constitutes a national claim.
      I refer to this leap, moving from national aspirations to DNA-related political and legal claims as crossing the race line.
      The Jewish claim is not based on DNA, but on a national-cultural affinity that was internationally recognized as a legal right.
      The DNA part is anecdotal in this context: it shows that most Jews share common ancestors, and Jews and Palestinians share some common ancestors. This has nothing to do with either common culture, language or rights.

      Reply to Comment
    30. janna

      Thank you for explaining what you mean, Max, though I don’t personally agree that ancestry is related to nationalism.
      I myself didn’t make any political or legal claims based on ancestry (DNA) _or_ cultural affinity. I simply pointed out to BI (as I already explained) that the Palestinian history in the area may well be as old as the Jewish history. He had mentioned the Jewish historical connection in his own previous response to Waleed. Whether or not Waleed intended any sort of political or legal claims in his suggestion that Palestinians or whomever he was speaking of has a 4000 year history here is not an issue for me to conjecture.

      I completely agree that it’s illogical to assume that the airspace of a future Palestinian state would be controlled by Israel. Palestinian airspace is, however, currently controlled by Israel and maintaining that status quo has been suggested by Israeli negotiators. When negotiators (or politicians or average people) say “Palestinian state” it’s important to note whether they mean maintaining the status quo and simply calling it a “state” or actually allowing a sovereign state to come into existence.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Janna

      Max, I’d like to ask you something. You wrote that “The Jewish claim is not based on DNA, but on a national-cultural affinity”. Is affinity a better basis for political and legal claims to something, in your opinion, than is ancestry/DNA? (Please don’t just repeat the bit about the national-cultural affinity being recognized internationally; I read your comment. I’m interested in your opinion on the merits of the one basis versus the other.)

      Reply to Comment
    32. Janna

      Kindly allow me to edit my above comment:
      With regard to my previous question, I would actually like to remove the part about DNA since that was your addition to the point of ancestry. So to rephrase my first question, is national-cultural affinity a better basis for a legal or political claim than is ancestral ownership?

      Perhaps I should also ask whether you believe that national-cultural affinity is a better basis for legal or political claims than is possession.

      Reply to Comment
    33. Koshiro

      “In short, a country can be free without necessarily “enjoying” all the aspects you mentioned: some by choice, some by *pressure*.”
      If you disagree, be so kind as to show me which countries are required by treaty to cede control of their borders and airspace to another country. Name the relevant treaties as well.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Mishy Harman writes a half truth, at best, when he argues that “he was once a leftist but after the event he transformed into a Zionist leftist”. Almost 10 years ago, he was indeed sympathetic towards radical leftist activities. But just a bit later he was already very active in the notorious Harvard Students for Israel. And here’s his quasi-obituary to Ariel Sharon, the great peacenik. Some violin music, please:


      Reply to Comment
    35. abban aziz

      What is the Palestinian narrative? I see whining about Israel but no clear cut portrayal of the Palestinian position.

      What is it?

      Reply to Comment
    36. Optimist

      —> By April 27, 1948 when the Arab leaders were still only planning to start a war because of the increasing number of refugees, i.e. the European Jewish terrorists had already expelled large number of natives before the Arab neighbors sent their armies.

      St. Petersburg Times – Apr 27, 1948

      Arab Nations Plan Attack on Palestine

      Jerusalem (AP) – The regular armies of Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt will launch an invasion of Palestine by Saturday, advices reaching Jeusalem last night said.

      Arab leaders reportedly are alarmed by the extend of recent Jewish military successes. Arab people in the Middle East have been inflamed by the arrival of Arab refugees from Palestine.

      Fighting was resumed along Palestine’s coastal plain. The Jewish extremist group, Irgun Zvai Leumi, struck again from Tel Aviv against the neighboring Arab city of Jaffa. In doing so the Irgunists acted in defiance of broadcast orders by Haganah, the regular Jewish militia.

      The population of Acre has been swollen by Arab refugees from nearby Haifa, which has been captured by the Jews. Haifa itself now was quiet, the British army reported, with the Jews and Arabs beginning to work together.


      Schenectady Gazette – May 4, 1948
      Acre Has Outbreak Of Typhoid

      Acre, Palestine, May 4. (AP) – Eighty-two cases of typhoid are being treated in this ancient city, which is overcrowded with Arab refugees. Authorities have expressed fear of an epidemic.

      Vice-Mayor Ahmed Abdu of Acre said that in addition to the 36 cases among the town’s civilians, another 50 persons were regarded as suspect cases.

      Acre is a town of about 15,000 population. It is located across the bay, eight miles from Haifa. After the Jewish Haganah forces took control of most of Haifa two weeks ago, thousands of Arabs fled to Acre.

      —> By May 12, 1948 the talk of “war” was still more of a propaganda than real preparation on ground.
      Ottawa Citizen – May 12, 1948
      Jew-Arab War Threat Termed “Propaganda”

      By Daniel de Luce
      Associated Press Correspondent
      JERUSALEM – The threatened war between a Jewish state and the Arab world looks more and more like an exploded propaganda balloon.
      This correspondent has come to this conclusion after weeks spent mostly in Arab capitals and after seeing the Jewish setup in Palestine.

      It has an army which has decisively defeated a few thousand poorly led Arab volunteers, teh majority of whom came from outside Palestine.
      This army, Hagana, in addition to holding that part of Palestine allotted the Jews under the United Nationas partition plan, now dominates many Arab districts outside the Jewish boundaries drawn by the U.N.

      The nominal leaders of the Palestine Arabs now are almost everywhere but in Palestine. Their panicky flights to Beyrout, Damascus, Cairo and other foreign cities has left the Arab population in a choatic and hopeless frame of mind.
      The propaganda campaigns have confused the real state of affairs in Palestine until the last few days. One was by the Arab League, which since November has threatened repeatedly that 35,000 – ??000 Arabs of the middle East would “fight to the last man” to prevent the creation of a Jewish state. As the showdown neared, however, more than one Arab government has confessed it is unable to put an army into the field. Others apologetically said they could not bear the burden of invasion alone.
      The other propaganda campaign by Jewish spokesmen has exaggerated the infiltration of few than 4,000 foreign Arab volunteers into a mass invasion and has ignored the growth of the Jewish army into a formidable war machine.

      Reply to Comment
    37. max

      janna, I haven’t thought about prioritization of factors for such claims, as I think it’s irrelevant to the subject.
      Individual rights don’t sum up to national rights, and ethnic minorities don’t have automatic rights to nationhood.
      The Jews were lucky that the international legal system of early 20th century accepted their claim that their 2,000 years of cultural attachment to this land, their persecution, and the political opening due to the collapse of the Ottoman Empire is an opportunity they shouldn’t miss.
      The Arabs in Palestine – not yet a nation, first discussions are dated early 1920’s – were offered the same, and refused. Instigated a war, and lost. That’s history.

      Reply to Comment
    38. Click here to load previous comments

The stories that matter.
The missing context.
All in one weekly email.

Subscribe to +972's newsletter