Joint Arab List Knesset members raised signs declaring “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine” as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence began his speech at the Knesset on January 22. Not east Jerusalem, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas emphasizes in speeches. This was meant to be a counterweight to U.S. President Donald Trump’s December 6 recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without mentioning its borders.
The statement on the sign raises a number of problems:
First, there is not, nor has there ever been, a state with the name of Palestine. Jerusalem was never a capital for the Palestinians, who are a recently established nation that never took advantage of the right to self-determination they are claiming, even though it was offered to them several times. Jerusalem was for many years the capital of a state belonging to the Jewish people.
Second, referring to Jerusalem and not just to the eastern part of the city implies either that Joint Arab List MKs are more radical than Abbas is, or that they say what he thinks but is careful not to say.
Third, there is no mention in the sign of the possibility that Jews or Israel have any sort of rights in Jerusalem.
Beyond the text, the sign sends the message that Joint Arab List MKs share the fictitious narrative Abbas has presented in his speeches, according to which there is no Jewish people, Zionism is a creation of colonialism, Jews from Arab lands immigrated to Israel because of a Zionist conspiracy that reactionary Arab leaders joined, and the only indigenous people in this land are the Palestinians. This narrative claims Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites – whoever does not die of laughter or shame from this has lost all hope – while the Jews have no historical connection to or sovereignty over the country. The narrative posits that the Jews are base and conspire to spread drugs, perpetuate an apartheid regime, murder children and more, and that Zionism must be struggled against until it is defeated. Moreover, as all forms of struggle are legitimate, Abbas glorified terrorists and promised to continue paying them salaries.
In the view of the Palestinian leader, the most effective way to advance Palestinian goals is by combining political struggles in the international community with a popular uprising, meaning violence without the use of firearms. Despite this, whoever has weapons and is ready to use them against Israel will earn praise and assistance. The struggle is national and religious at the same time, and Abbas often uses Islamic motifs, such as describing the Palestinians as being in “ribat,” an Arabic word for a base or fortification, describing a state of readiness to defend Islamic lands.
In Abbas’ narrative, the Palestinians are “victims of colonialism and Zionism” and therefore cannot be expected to act responsibly. Instead, they should be compensated for their victimhood and struggle to liberate all of Palestine. Israeli Arabs are part of the Palestinian people. The refugees must return to their homes and the State of Israel must be a state for all its citizens, until, as part of a phased plan, it turns into a Palestinian state. Elements of this narrative have been repeated by Abbas for many years. They were featured in his book “Zionism: Beginning and End,” which was published in 1977 and again in 2011.
The sign the Joint Arab List members raised implies they believe this false narrative.
And that is the real problem. Clearly, some Israeli Arab voters believe they are part of the Palestinian people before they are part of Israeli society. The extent of this belief’s representation among Arab Israelis is uncertain.
Abbas especially warns the Arabs against the normalization of relations between Israel and Arab states. It will be interesting to see if they heed his warnings: His call to suspend ties with the U.S. was ignored, just as east Jerusalem merchants ignored his calls for a general Palestinian strike during Pence’s visit.
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This article originally appeared in Israel Hayom on January 31, 2018. (http://www.israelhayom.com/opinions/the-fictitious-arab-narrative/)