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 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!
Then we have parts of the Gaza Strip being shown on the Cole map as “Israeli land.” Never mind that there is not a single Israeli anywhere in the Gaza Strip, ever since Israel – somewhat foolishly – turned the entire area over to the Hamas years ago. In the West Bank, Cole shows large swaths of “Palestinian land.” What he means of course is land on which Arabs live today. There are also swaths of land there on which Jews live. If the very fact of Arabs living on those lands turns them into “Palestinian lands,” then most of the American Southwest is Mexico.
Let me put this a little differently. If we apply Cole’s “logic,” then we need to note that a hundred years ago there were no properties at all owned by Juan Cole in Ann Arbor. In contrast, today there are no properties in Ann Arbor owned by me. Therefore, Cole’s house there must belong to me!
Cole actually prepared the map for the Leeds bigots, but it was obviously not anyone with any interest in facts. This is evidently why it appealed to Juan Cole.
Cole took the map from the Leeds jihadists and ran it with no editing at all on his own web site here. It was posted as part of a broader Bash-Israel posting. That posting is so filled with pseudo-scholarship and disinformation that, in and of itself, it raises enormous doubts about Cole’s qualifications to serve on the faculty of any bona fide institution of higher learning. Among other things, Cole writes there:
“Israelis claim a ‘birthright’ to do things like colonize Palestinian territory, based on romantic-nationalist reworkings of biblical narratives. But Canaan was populated for millenia before some Canaanite tribes adopted the new religion of Judaism, and it was also ruled, as Palestine, for centuries by Romans and Greeks, and for 1400 years by Muslims. The Palestinian Jews converted to Christianity and then to Islam, so they are cousins of the European Jews (who appear to have gone to Europe voluntarily as male merchants around 800 CE,, where they took local wives). European Jews are about half European by parentage and all European by cultural heritage, and it is no more natural that they be in geographical Palestine than that they be in Europe (where nearly two-thirds of their mothers were from and about a third of their fathers). From a Middle Eastern point of view, European Jews planted in British Mandate Palestine by the British Empire were no different from the million colons or European colonists brought to Algeria while it was under French rule from 1830-1962.“
Cole’s attempt to claim that “Palestinian Arabs” have roots among Canaanite tribes is laughable charlatanism. His pseudo-history of Jews resembles those to be found on many Neo-Nazi web sites. Palestinian Jews did not become Christians and Moslems. Those who did go to Europe did not do so “voluntarily” but to escape persecution, in contrast with the Syrian and Lebanese Arabs who migrated into “Palestine” in the late 19th and early 20th century to morph into up-and-coming “Palestinians.” Jews were hardly “planted” in Palestine by the British Empire. Jews lived there thousands of years before London was established. If anything, the British Empire did its best to mollycoddle Arab fascism during the 1920s and 1930s by preventing Jewish refugees escaping growing persecution in Europe and immigrating to “Palestine.”
Cole’s publication of the “maps” of “Palestinian Lands” was quickly picked up by Andrew Sullivan, writing in the Atlantic. While in the past Sullivan was capable of expressing the occasional approving sentiment about Israel and Jews, he suddenly became a vicious Israel basher during Israel’s “Cast Lead” military campaign against Hamas terrorism in the Gaza Strip. Israel had patiently sat back during years of being bombarded by thousands of Palestinian rockets, mortars, and sniper attacks. When it at long last retaliated, Sullivan went on a series of rage rants. In several of these he ran Cole’s pseudo-map.
Sullivan was called to task on that by Leon Wieseltier, writing in the New Republic: ‘Sullivan is hunting for motives, not reasons; for conspiracies, which is the surest sign of a mind’s bankruptcy.. These days the self-congratulatory motto above his blog is “Of No Party or Clique,” but in fact Sullivan belongs to the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt (whom he cites frequently and deferentially), to the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington.’ More than one blogger saw the exchange between Sullivan and Wieseltier as the bubbling out of Sullivan’s latent anti-Semitism.
When Sullivan ran the Cole pseudo-map, he accompanied it with the caption: ‘Joe Biden was kicked in the balls as he came to Israel with a simultaneous “f**k you” by the Israeli government announcing new settlements – 1600 houses – in East Jerusalem.” Why Israel’s building housing in its capital is an obscenity, while the United States building housing in Washington, DC is not – is just one more mystery unexplained by Sullivan.
The Cole pseudo-map would not die, and continues to metastasize. Jeffrey Goldberg made a valiant attempt at debunking it in the Atlantic, but missed the most important points. Sullivan then defended his use of it, out-Cole-ing even Juan Cole.
Since the Cole-Sullivan tag team started promoting the map as reflecting some sort of historic record, it has been picked up by countless anti-Semitic and anti-Israel web sites, blogs and magazines around the world. I found reprints in thousands of web pages. It has also been debunked by others, such as this web site. But it is now indelibly part of the anti-Israel canon of the Bash-Israel Left and the Islamofascists, both beloved by the pseudo-academic, Juan Cole.