[The Freedom Center will host an evening reception and talk with David Brog on Thursday, June 8, 2017 (7-9pm PDT) at the Luxe Sunset Boulevard Hotel, 11461 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. For more info: CLICK HERE.]
Editor’s note: The greatest threat to the Middle East isn’t Israel. It’s the lies that are told about the Jewish State. The spread of these lies in the Middle East has enabled terrorism and perpetuated the Arab-Israeli, fueling fanatical mass murder and genocidal plots against the Jewish people. The spread of those same lies in Europe has endangered Jews, while blinding governments to the Islamic terror threat at home.
_Now one book challenges the narrative with the truth. After decades of politicians pretending that they can achieve peace through lies, David Brog’s book, “Reclaiming Israel’s History: Roots, Rights and the Struggle for Peace_,” fights for peace with the truth.
_David Brog is the Executive Director of the Maccabee Task Force, which fights the delegitimization of Israel on campus, and was the founding executive director of Christians United for Israel. His i_s also the author of “Standing with Israel: Why Christians Support the Jewish State” (2006) and “In Defense of Faith: the Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity” (2010).
In the following interview with Frontpage Magazine’s Daniel Greenfield, Brog discusses his new book and its importance for defenders of Israel today.
Daniel Greenfield: Your book is titled, Reclaiming Israel’s History. Your subtitle is “Roots, Rights and the Struggle for Peace.” Do you feel that understanding Israel’s history is vital for achieving a true peace based on truth?
David Brog: Without a doubt. The lies told about Israel poison the prospects of peace. According to Palestinian leaders – in both Fatah and Hamas – the Israelis are a bunch of European colonists who came to a land to which they had no connection and ethnically cleansed it of its indigenous inhabitants. People who believe this will never see peace with Israel as a virtuous compromise. They will view peace as a cowardly surrender. No wonder the Palestinians have turned down five Israeli offers to create a Palestinian state.
Peace will be possible if – and only if – the Palestinians begin to accept the fact that the Jewish people have a deep connection to the Land of Israel and a legitimate claim to exercise their right to self-determination in this place. That’s why telling the truth about Israel is not an obstacle to peace. Quite to the contrary, a stubborn insistence on the truth is an absolute prerequisite to peace.
DG: The popular conception in the media is that the Jews of Israel are “settlers” who entered a land inhabited by another people. Yet the religious history of the world’s three major religions records that Jews are actually the indigenous population of Israel.
Are the Jews indeed the indigenous population? How did this pernicious myth take hold and why has it been so difficult to root out?
DB: Yes, the Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel. This fact is the foundation of Israel’s right to exist. That’s exactly why opponents of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel have always tried to deny the Jewish connection to this land.
This tactic actually dates back to the Romans. After suppressing the Bar Kochba Revolt in the year 135, the Romans were determined to crush Jewish dreams of independence once and for all. They destroyed 50 Jewish towns and 985 Jewish villages. They murdered and exiled hundreds of thousands of Jews. And they even changed the country’s name to erase its Jewish character. The country had been known as Judea, a name that emphasizes the Jewish connection. The Romans changed the name to Palestine, which instead invokes the Jews’ historic enemy, the Philistines.
Unfortunately, many of Israel’s enemies continue to use this same tactic down to the present day. Article 20 of the PLO Charter states that “claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history….” Many Palestinian leaders seem to believe this ridiculous rhetoric. During the Camp David peace negotiations in 2000, for example, Yasser Arafat actually insisted that there was never a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.
DG: PLO advocates have made assorted ahistorical claims for their background. They’ve linked themselves to everyone from the Caananites to Jesus. When do the so-called “Palestinians” actually date back to? And how did their identity evolve over the years?
DB: There have been Arabic speakers living in this land ever since the Arabs first invaded it in 636. But these Arabic speakers never considered themselves to be part of an “Arab people” let alone a “Palestinian people” until very recently.
During the 400 years that the Ottoman Empire ruled this area, the Arabic speakers living there viewed themselves as Ottoman subjects. The defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I left the Arabs of the Middle East in search of a new identity. Arab nationalism grew to fill the void. But it took a long time for pan-Arab nationalism – the idea that there is one large Arab people living in the vast region from Morocco to Iraq – to break down into smaller, local Arab identities. It wasn’t until after 1967 that a separate Palestinian Arab identity became prevalent.
People often react with disbelief when you tell them that Palestinian identity didn’t become dominant until after the 1967 War. Thus it’s worth remembering that the Palestinian National Charter was first drafted in 1964, just three years before that war. The Arab League did not recognize such a thing as a Palestinian people until 1974. Likewise the United Nations did not recognize such a thing as a Palestinian people until 1974.
DG: The invention of the “Palestinians” has been arguably one of the world’s greatest marketing success stories. Do Jews have anything to learn from that about the importance of telling Israel’s story from the point of view of an underdog?
DB: The most important thing Jews can do is tell the truth. We don’t need to deny the existence or humanity of the Arabic speakers who lived in this land during the modern, Zionist immigration. And we don’t need to ignore the fact that these Palestinians have suffered.
But while we acknowledge these truths about the Palestinians we must insist on telling the truth about Israel. We must teach people about the 3,500-year history of Jews living in this land. We must remind people about the repeated waves of Jewish return to this land over the centuries, culminating in the modern Zionist movement.
And most importantly, we must never allow the reality of Palestinian suffering to confuse the issue of causation. Just because the Palestinians have suffered doesn’t mean that Israel is to blame. On the contrary, Palestinian suffering is the direct result of Palestinian aggression.
It’s important to remember there would not have been so much as one Palestinian refugee had the Arabs of Palestine accepted their own independent state under the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947. When they rejected this state and chose instead to launch a war to destroy the Jewish state, they were the authors of the suffering that resulted on both sides. And when later Palestinian leaders rejected subsequent offers of Palestinian statehood, they ensured that this suffering would continue down to the present day.
DG: Israel’s opponents, from the BDS movement to various diplomats, insist that Israel could have peace if it were only willing to make a deal, is it really as easy as they claim?
DB: The most dangerous of all of the anti-Israel myths is this idea that Israel could have peace tomorrow if it simply ended its “occupation” of the West Bank and let Palestinians have a state there. This belief leads its adherents to the same flawed conclusion: if you want peace in the Middle East, you must pressure Israel to immediately leave the West Bank. J Street and Peace Now seek to do this through political pressure. BDS seeks to do this through economic pressure.
The history of this conflict clearly disproves this premise. Israel has actually tried to do exactly what BDS, J Street and Peace Now are calling upon it do – they’ve offered the Palestinians their own independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and half of Jerusalem. In fact, the Jews of Palestine/Israelis have made this offer to the Arabs of Palestine/Palestinians not once, but on five separate occasions: 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000 and 20008.
Why is there still a conflict today? Because the Palestinians turned down each and every one of these offers, often quite violently. It is this Palestinian rejectionism that gave rise to this conflict and it is this Palestinian rejectionism that sustains this conflict.
I understand the temptation that drives so many people – including so many Israelis – to ignore harsh realities and believe that if Israel just made the right peace offer at the right time they would know war no more. It’s an alluring fantasy. But I’m afraid that history teaches us that there are no such easy answers here. Unless and until the Palestinians accept and internalize Israel’s right to exist, Israeli peace offers won’t bring peace.
All of those people who are so eager to rush peace along would be wise to stop pressuring Israel and start pressuring the Palestinians to finally accept Israel’s legitimacy in both word and deed. There’s no short cut here.
DG: We know that there was both Jewish and Muslim migration to Israel during the British colonial period. Why is Jewish immigration considered illegitimate while migration by Arabs and Muslims is deemed indigenous?
DB: Great question. This is yet another powerful example of how the truth is often the exact opposite of what the anti-Israel narrative claims.
Israel’s detractors insist that the Jews came to Israel and expelled Arabs who had been living there for centuries. The statistics tell a very different story. During the peak years of Jewish immigration to Palestine under the British Mandate – from 1922 to 1947 – Palestine’s Arab population did not decrease. It grew and grew quite dramatically – from 554,500 to 1,207,600. This is an increase of approximately 120 percent in only twenty-five years.
What’s even more remarkable is that this Arab population growth occurred at its highest rates in those parts of the country to which Jews were moving. Between 1922 and 1947, the Arab population of Haifa grew by 290 percent. During the same period, the Arab population of Jaffa grew by 158 percent.
The Arab population grew at a far slower pace in those parts of Palestine untouched by Jewish immigration. In Nablus, the Arab population grew by only 56 percent during this period. In Bethlehem, it grew by a mere 37 percent.
As these numbers make clear, Arab population followed the economic opportunities created by Jewish immigration and investment. In particular, this Arab population growth was the direct result of three factors:
As you note, these Arab immigrants now view themselves as Palestinians and no one challenges their identity or rights. But Jews returning to Israel during the same period – even as refugees from Arab countries – are still vilified as foreign, colonial, and even European.
This lie about Israel – like so many others – exists and thrives because there are advocates dedicated to spreading it widely. We need to be just as diligent in spreading the truth.
DG: Should Jews be ready to stop apologizing for Israel’s defense of an indigenous national minority?
DB: Absolutely. We’ve got to stop treating the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel as some sort of tedious and irrelevant ancient history. This connection is what separates Israel’s moral foundation from the injustice of European colonialism.
The Jewish people is indigenous to the Land of Israel. In addition, most Israelis have another more immediate connection to the region. Many Israelis are Jews who fled persecution and violence in Muslim countries after the 1948 war. These Jewish refugees – together with their descendants – now comprise the large majority of Israelis.
These Jewish roots in the region suggest Jewish rights in the region. A Tunisian Jewish writer named Albert Memmi put this best when he wrote, “By what mystical geography are we not at home there [the Middle East] too, we who descend from the same indigenous populations since the first human settlements were made? Why should only the converts to Islam be the soul proprietors of our common soil.”
DG: What role can ordinary people like our readers play in getting the true story of Israel out there? And what role does Reclaiming Israel’s History play in that regard?
DB: Israel’s enemies understand that Israel needs a strong alliance with the United States to survive. That’s why they focus so much time and energy on the effort to undermine support for Israel in America, especially among our young people. In this effort, their weapon is not the Kassam rocket or the suicide bomb, but an anti-Israel narrative built on a foundation of lies.
Those of us living outside Israel can’t do much to defend the country from physical attack. But we are uniquely well positioned to defend Israel from these attacks on her legitimacy. In order to do this effectively, however, we need to know enough about the conflict to make an effective case. We’ve got to know Israel’s history.
I wrote Reclaiming Israel’s History to take all of the facts most relevant to rebutting the modern anti-Israel narrative and bring them together in one compelling, chronological account. The book is accessible to those who are new to this topic. But people steeped in this issue have written to tell me they they’ve learned so many things they never knew. That might just be the best compliment of all.
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