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Juan Cole is the Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History. He claims to be a Middle East historian and expert. He has served as the president of the “Middle East Studies Association.” At least one scholar has accused him of being personally responsible for the intellectual bankruptcy plaguing Middle East studies. Cole is an anti-Israel and anti-American extremist, and his extremism prevented him from getting a job offer from Yale a few years back. He is probably best known for his professing beliefs in grand Jewish conspiracies. He tosses around the term “Zionofascists” when he means “Jews.” He led the pro-Saddam lobby and is a Hamas apologist. He loves to spread anti-Jewish blood libels. He is bosom buddies with Neo-Nazi anti-Semitic conspiracist nuts, like Justin Raimondo (who claims the Jews and not al-Qaeda were behind the 9-11 attacks on the US).
For those who think that the fascist method of The Big Lie must be restricted to slogans or phrases, you should never underestimate the value of a false map. Perhaps the world title for telling a Big Lie by means of a map, or rather a pseudo-map, now belongs to the pseudo-academic Cole, regarding “Palestinian lands.” He has decided that lands owned by the British imperial mandatory governing in control of “Palestine” between the world wars were “Palestinian land.” Those are the “Palestinian lands” he claims were stolen by Israel. Now, as it turns out, those were “Palestinian lands” only in the sense that they were state land owned by the British “Palestine” mandatory government. They were by and large not lands owned by “Palestinian” Arabs. And they were by and large completely empty.
Those were the lands taken over by Israel when it became independent that Cole maps as “Palestinian lands.” Today Juan Cole is the daddy of the world’s most absurd propaganda pseudo-map, which purports to tell the history of “Palestine.” The map can be viewed here and is entitled “Palestinian Loss of Land 1946 to 2000.” It consists of four frames.
The first frame is labeled “Palestinian and Jewish Land 1946.” It shows “Palestinian land” in green comprising more than 90% of “Palestine” (defined as the area later forming Israel, the West Bank and Gaza). Most of this “Palestinian” land was “Palestinian” only in the sense that it was public land owned by the British mandatory government of “Palestine.”
The second frame shows the UN partition plan 1947, under which roughly equal slices of land in Mandatory Palestine were assigned to a proposed Jewish state and a proposed Palestinian Arab state. Unwittingly, the map prepared by Cole makes the Israeli case. Readers might want to ask of Cole and his friends embarrassing questions, such as why that Arab Palestinian state never arose. After all, the Jews accepted the compromise proposal. The answer that Cole does not want you to know is that the Arab states invaded the territory militarily and gobbled up most of the what had been earmarked for a Palestinian state. Readers might also wonder how come half the segment of Western Palestine that had been reserved for the Jews after Transjordan had been truncated from Palestine was being offered to the Arabs.
In the same map, what are shown in Cole’s second frame as “Palestinian lands” were also by and large public lands controlled by the British Mandatory government and not lands owned by “Palestinian” Arabs. The third frame shows Israel’s borders after Independence and the last frame shows Israel’s borders today together, again with lands in the West Bank and Gaza defined by Cole as “Palestinian lands.”
The Big Lie is most visibly and viciously concentrated in Cole’s first frame. After World War I, all of Western Palestine was governed by Britain under a Mandate granted to it by the League of Nations. Its mandate was to develop the area as a Jewish homeland. The eastern part of Palestine was truncated and illegally turned by Britain into the independent Arab kingdom of Transjordan. The rump segment of Palestine was reserved for the Jews. None of this was earmarked for creation of yet another Arab state. The bulk of land within the Palestinian Mandate was state-owned land, governed by the British Mandatory government. It had also been state-owned land previously under the Ottoman imperial government, before Britain liberated “Palestine” from the Turks. [Before World War I, land in Palestine was owned by the Ottoman state and a feudalistic class of absentee landlords. The few “Palestinian” Arabs who lived in the country at the time seldom owned any land. They farmed it as sharecroppers.]
The Cole map of “Palestinian lands” gives the impression that before Israel’s creation 90% of the land of Palestinian was owned by “Palestinian” Arabs. In reality, almost none of it was. It was mainly land owned by feudal aristocrats and by the imperial government. Most of it was empty. When the Zionist migrations began, the Jews started buying up lands from their feudal landlords, who were happy to turn a quick profit. Almost no “Palestinian” Arabs were forced off those lands as the ownership changed and the Jewish immigrants arrived. The anti-Israel Lobby, which loves to accuse the Zionists of “colonialism,” is invited to find any other case in human history in which the “colonialists” came and paid in full at (and often well above) market prices for the lands they were “colonizing.”
As Jewish capital flowed into the country, bringing with it rising wages, health and educational standards, Arabs from neighboring countries, mainly from Lebanon and Syria, flowed in to “Palestine” to take advantage of the progress. Those Arabs never saw themselves as “Palestinians” until the fabrication of a mythical “Palestinian people” became the Arab propaganda line after 1967. The “Palestinians” were then assigned the same role of the German Sudetens in the late 1930s, pretending to be oppressed “victims” whose liberation required annihilation of their democratic “oppressors,” or so their genocidal totalitarian patrons insisted.
The large increase in Jewish land ownership between the late 1800s and 1948 was due to this process of land acquisition by means of Zionist purchases. Swaths of lands were also purchased by Jews in Syria and Transjordan. They were later stolen by the respective Arab governments, a little matter about which the “anti-apartheid” poseurs and Hillary Clinton have never had much to say. The bulk of the land in Western “Palestine,” including almost the entire Negev in Israel’s south, was state-owned during the British mandatory period. If Cole and Sullivan had an ounce of integrity, they would have identified public lands as precisely that.
Then to make matters worse, the pseudo-map and its sponsors paint all of Israel and large swaths of the West Bank and Gaza as “Jewish lands.” Even when they are owned by Arabs.
Let us note that what Cole and Sullivan call “Jewish lands” or “Israeli lands” include not only private lands owned by Arabs but also public lands serving Israeli Jews and Arabs in common. Are highways and parks used by all Israelis “Jewish lands?” Evidently Cole thinks so. Are lands upon which Arab schools, mosques, libraries and sports stadiums sit “Israeli lands?” Maybe Cole has never met an Arab who uses a park.
In addition, the bulk of land in Israel is publicly owned even today. As an economist I oppose this anachronistic “socialist ownership.” These holdings include public lands that are used by all Israelis, Arabs and Jews. Of privately-owned land, Israeli Arabs own more of it than their share in the Israeli population!
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