Israelis have come to take the delegitimization of their national rights and hard-won sovereignty in stride. Partly it’s the overwhelming global tide of vilification. There is just so much one can rebut. After a while, apathy takes over.
We grow inured to smears – be they from glory-craving statesmen, populist politicians, British or Norwegian trade unions, supermarket shelf-stackers, sanctimonious church groups, human rights promoters, campus organizers, professors foisting intolerant agendas on impressionable students or artsy self-appointed thought-molders worldwide.
But it’s one thing not to pay heed anymore or care about what they say about us out there. It’s quite another to imbibe the slander and take it for granted as a given fact. It’s one thing to ignore the lie, but once we begin believing it, we accept that our very existence is sinful.
Once our villainy is established, we invariably become the side that’s always required to build the confidence of sworn foes, make concessions, give rather than receive, weaken itself and expose its anyway ultra-vulnerable soft underbelly to genocidal predations. The onus is forever on us.
Seems far-fetched? Not really. Examples abound of the subconscious reprogramming of our perceptions. The other day we watched with a mixture of amusement and horror a Hamas video purporting to preview its future, lusted-for conquest of Tel Aviv. Computerized visual effects showcased Hamas minions marching victoriously through the main avenues of Zionism’s greatest urban creation, pouring exultantly into its landmarks and planting Islam’s flags everywhere.
We know that this is what they script for us. This is their concept of justice. They won’t reconcile themselves to coexistence. They won’t desist until they vanquish us and obliterate all memory of us. The Arabic chronicler of Tel Aviv’s “humiliating defeat” called the city Tel al- Rabia. He thereby erased the name Zionist pioneers gave the gleaming white metropolis they built on mounds of barren, uninhabited, forbidding and constantly shifting sand dunes which they had purchased in 1909.
Tel Aviv was the Hebrew translation for Theodor Herzl’s seminal Altneuland – old-new land – embodying our bond to our historic homeland and our new endeavor to restore our national home in it. As part of their delegitimization campaign, ongoing since the 19th century, our neighbors habitually seek to expunge any connection we have to this land.
Time and again their leaders (including the deceased Yasser Arafat, his successor Mahmoud Abbas and assorted official PA mouthpieces) assert that no Jewish Temple ever existed in Jerusalem and that Jewish roots in this part of the world are trumped-up stories.
But we are inured. We take it in stride.
HOWEVER, AS the Hamas cinematic triumph was featured on our own Channel 2 news, the presenter noted the name change and informed his audience that “Hamas has reverted to Tel Aviv’s previous, original Arabic name.”
This was repeated in Yediot Aharonot.
Whoa, hold it! What previous name for Tel Aviv? There was none. Tel Aviv had no predecessor. It rose from the desolate wasteland. Nobody was here before it and it displaced nobody.
So why did this spurious comment inspire no squawk? Perhaps because we passively acquiesce to our own delegitimization.
It appeared self-evident to the anchor and news reporter that everywhere we reside, we dislodged indigenous Arabs. The original sin applies everywhere even to Rothschild Boulevard, Herzl and Ahad Ha’am streets – the cradles of embryonic Tel Aviv.
As decades pass, fewer and fewer old-timers remain to attest to how it was. New immigrants and the young (who are taught post-Zionist historiography in our schools) make the same assumptions as Channel 2’s talking head
Outright lies are incorporated into what looks like an enlightened, objective narrative. That’s how myths are born, history revised and skewed falsehoods become the moral compass for the likes of Sweden’s pension funds.
Gargantuan lies have triggered all major turning points here for more than a century. For a full 11 months the infamous Haj Amin al-Husseini (later Hitler’s avid collaborator) meticulously orchestrated the incensed spontaneity of the August 1929 countrywide massacre (remembered foremost for the destruction of Hebron’s ancient Jewish community). Husseini even prepared postcards with photomontages of Herzl (then dead for 25 years) on the Temple Mount to inflame passions about a Jewish plot to demolish al-Aksa.
On April 19, 1936 Husseini’s provocateurs spread rumors simultaneously in different quarters of Jaffa about three Arab men and a woman who were butchered in Tel Aviv and whose bloodied remains were brought to the government hospital. Within minutes, as if by a prearranged signal, thousands descended menacingly on the British Mandatory headquarters. Officials escorted a delegation through Jaffa’s hospitals to prove that there were no bodies.
But proof wasn’t in demand. Facts were immaterial.
The agitators swore they saw corpses and the riled crowds needed no corpus delicti. Ferocious shrieks of itbah el yahud – slaughter the Jews – resonated throughout Jaffa.
The roused rabble was on the warpath to wreak vengeance on Tel Aviv.
Thus started the Nazi-financed, three-year Arab revolt that cost thousands of lives, but paradoxically fortified the emergent Jewish state, which would achieve independence 12 years later.
The Arab aggression against the Jews was based on an outright lie, but nobody sought the truth. The lie, if believed, becomes reality. Fraudulent reality then takes on a life of its own. If nurtured, it grows, multiplies and becomes an axiomatic premise for a searing sense of injustice.
The lie binds. Spurious grievances confine and scourge those they ensnare.
The Arabs (who then fanatically spurned the Palestinian moniker) were victims of their own uprising. They murdered their own brethren and sabotaged their own economy. It was a self-inflicted disaster, a precursor to the 1948 one which would follow the onslaught by seven Arab armies on day-old Israel.
The Jewish state would be blamed for surviving and would fill its thwarted would-be annihilators with yet more frustration and festering rage. Instead of abating, genocidal hate would only intensify and magnify.
Those belatedly calling themselves Palestinians portray themselves as innocents struck by a monumental calamity and continuously oppressed for no fault of their own.
They clamor for another chance, for a return to square one, presumably to recoup their losses and continue from where they left off.
NO PEACE is possible until Arab leaders tell their people they were brainwashed for decades, victimized by lies rather than Jewish injustice. So long as Arabs feel wronged, they won’t rest till they kill the last Jew in this land.
But not only our enemies need to renounce the lie.
Those among us who believe that Tel Aviv was Tel al- Rabia fan the flames too. By repeating the lie, they inadvertently supply still-implacable enemies with evidence of Jewish guilt.
Unwittingly they cast themselves in the role of the Jaffa resident who provided conclusive “proof” of the Jewish crime in 1936. He dipped his hands in the blood of two slain and mutilated Jews and ran shouting: “Here is the blood the Jews spilled.” Furious frenzy ensued.
To my knowledge, Tel Aviv translates as Spring Hill. It is sometimes called the White City because of its more than 4000 mostly white Bauhaus-style buildings, built in the 1930s by German-Jewish architects who immigrated to Mandatory Palestine with the rise of the Nazis…
Knowledge of its history may, as Sarah suggests, have eluded Israelis, but in 2003 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed Tel Aviv’s White City a World Cultural Heritage site, as “an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century.” And the Wikipedia article notes that the new garden city to be called Tel Aviv was developed on the sand dunes outside Jaffa in 1909…
There’s really no excuse for the kind of suicidal pig-ignorance among Israelis that Sarah describes. We humans have the gift of writing things down, so even with the passing of the generation that remembers first-hand, we can still know the history of earlier times. And the ubiquity of the World Wide Web makes this even more true today…
Sarah Honig mentions the important factor of the ‘brainwashing’ of Palestinians. This should not be underestimated. We humans are much more gullible that is generally accepted. The Arabs and Palestinians are easily led and susceptible to extreme emotional behaviour on the flimsiest of pretext. The ancient Jewish community of Hebron lived together with their Arab neighbors. The attended each others weddings and funerals. The massacre there was orchestrated and Jews slaughtered. Tel Aviv is linked to Arab culture as much as Glasgow is an outpost of the Han Chinese.
S H Cohen
Those of our leaders who treat Judea &Samaria as a bargaining chip for a peace which can be realized only in their heads are delegitimizing all of Israel.