As Israel celebrates its 75th anniversary, anti-Israel activists have been diligently attempting to reframe Israel, not as a successful nation-state overcoming the odds, but re-writing history to demonize the country.
A recent interview on the Don’t Call Me Resilient podcast on TheConversation.com is a perfect example of this.
In the May 4 episode, titled “Will a UN resolution to commemorate the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands change the narrative?,” host Vinita Srivastava interviewed Mark Muhannad Ayyash, a sociology professor at Calgary’s Mount Royal University, and a contributor on Al Jazeera News’ website, where he regularly writes anti-Israel content.
Even before speaking with Ayyash, Srivastava’s introduction was a hodgepodge of false information regarding Israel’s rebirth in 1948.
“Seventy five years ago…Palestinians were driven off their land to create the State of Israel…about 750,000 people were violently forced from their homes that day. And in the decades after, tens of thousands of others were murdered and displaced.”
Following Israel’s proclamation of independence in May, 1948, its Arab neighbours invaded the newly reborn country, seeking to destroy it. The first secretary-general of the Arab League said that if Israel achieved independence, it would create “a war of extermination and momentous massacre.”
Far from any large-scale Israeli attempt to expel Arabs in Israel from their homes, it was in fact Arab leaders who drove them out.
As noted by respected historian Benny Morris, “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments.”
Morris added that these orders from Arab officers played a significant role in the departure of Arabs from the newly independent Israel. “There can be no exaggerating the importance of these early Arab-initiated evacuations in the demoralization, and eventual exodus, of the remaining rural and urban populations,” he added.
As for Srivastava’s unfounded claim that “tens of thousands of others were murdered,” this is a ludicrous and utterly baseless allegation with no evidence whatsoever for it. While Palestinian-initiated wars of terrorism have taken place a number of times since 1948 against Israel, to evidently classify all Palestinian deaths as murders is patently absurd.
Ayyash’s comments during the interview were no better. He claimed that Israel – which he repeatedly referred to as a settler colonialist project – was created because it served the interests of the British government, saying that “A Jewish state in that region would enable the British empire to advance its own imperial interests.”
The UN’s #NakbaDay resolution helps acknowledge past traumas but does it have other implications? Host @writevinita speaks to M. Muhannad Ayyash (@AyyashMark) of @mountroyal4u to unpack the resolution. Listen at https://t.co/oTvS3riydd or wherever you get podcasts #Nakba75 #Nakba pic.twitter.com/n0wziJ8Y6a
— The Conversation Canada (@ConversationCA) May 4, 2023
Regardless of the geopolitical interests of the British government at the time, this statement and others, including one referring to Zionism, the Jewish People’s campaign of self-determination in their historical homeland as “an imperial project,” all but erases the Jewish People’s longstanding connection to the land of Israel. It also serves as a complete reversal of the truth: that not only did the Jews not fight on behalf of any colonial power, they in fact achieved independence from one which at times actively limited efforts to create a Jewish State.
And when the Jewish People achieved independence, the land of Israel was hardly random; it was the place where their ancestors had walked for thousands of years, and where even today, archaeological findings regularly prove the Jewish connection to the holy land, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
While Ayyash downplayed the three millennia of Jewish history in the land of Israel, he was only too eager to replace their history with that of the Palestinians.
“For thousands of years, this land has been populated by Palestinians and people who identified in different ways…Muslims, Christians Jews and other, smaller faiths. So they’ve been living there forever.”
It is not disputed that Arabs had been living in pre-state Israel; it was recognizing this reality that the British Mandate had offered to create an Arab state alongside a Jewish one – a proposal rejected by Arab leadership at the time.
And while Ayyash did acknowledge the Jews in his statement, there is no justification for subsuming three thousand years of Jewish history into his Palestinian framework.
The term Palestine was created two thousand years ago by the Roman Empire, named after the Philistines, an ancient sea-faring people, in an attempt to erase the Jewish history following the Roman victory over the Jews.
Ayyash has no right to take a name created by the Roman Empire to rub salt in the wounds of the defeated Jews two thousand years ago, and retroactively consider Jews to be Palestinians in order to fit his false narrative of Palestinians living in the land of Israel “for thousands of years.”
Three-quarters of a century after Israel proclaimed its independence, the country faces no shortage of challenges. But without argument, it has been a successful endeavour, not only as the Jewish State with half the world’s Jewish population living in the ancient Jewish homeland, but also a place where more than two million Arabs live as full and equal citizens in the eyes of the law.
No amount of historical revisionism will change that reality.