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Late last week the New York Times, Fox News Channel and other news agencies began to catch up with the DEBKA-Net-Weekly/WorldNetDaily report of the previous week on the hunt for Abu Zubaydah – the man believed to be in charge of operations for al-Qaida.
In case you missed it (though it was WND’s lead story for most of the day Friday, Feb. 8), we reported that Zubaydah was reportedly seen in Lebanon and that operational plans were being made to capture or kill him.
The New York Times didn’t have that – even a week later.
But there was something troubling to me about the recent news reports about Zubaydah.
He was consistently referred to as a “Palestinian.”
If Zubaydah is a Palestinian, then so am I and so is the rest of the Arab world. There is no evidence to suggest Zubaydah has ever been in Palestinian territory. He was born in Saudi Arabia. Working with Osama bin Laden and his terrorist network has brought him to Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan and much of the Arab world. But no one suggests he has ever visited Israel or Yasser Arafat’s fantasy-land of “Palestine.”
In fact, the New York Times reported: “His central goal has never been a Palestinian state. It’s been the cause of Islamic extremism.”
So, what is this identification with Palestine all about?
What is a Palestinian? What’s the definition?
Well, here are a few possibilities:
- Anyone who Yasser Arafat, the Egyptian, says is a Palestinian.
- Anyone who claims to be a Palestinian.
- Any angry Arab.
Before 1948 and the creation of the new state of Israel, the term generally referred to Jews, ironically enough. The Jerusalem Post was called the Palestine Post. Since most of the people living in the region then, as now, were Jews, it was only natural to think of Palestinians as Jews.
As I’ve written before, there never has been an autonomous, self-governing Palestinian Arab state in the history of the world – never.
There is no distinct Palestinian Arab culture or language. Most of the people we call Palestinians today actually have their roots in other Arab countries.
The United Nations and others tried to address the definition of a Palestinian early in the refugee crisis. There were various efforts. Sometimes, according to Joan Peters’ milestone book, “From Time Immemorial,” the U.N. categorized as Palestinian anyone who had been in the region for two years or even less.
The Arab population of the region continually climbed along with the Jewish population – as economic and living conditions improved. Workers came from Egypt and Jordan and even non-Arab countries to capitalize on the opportunities Jewish immigration brought.
There were some 50 different languages spoken among the “Arab” population in pre-1948 “Palestine.” By definition, Arabs speak Arabic. These non-Jewish Palestinians who spoke languages other than Arabic were, in most cases, as new to the area as any recent Jewish immigrant.
The so-called Palestinian leadership, from Arafat on down, are known for inventing the most creative stories about their families’ long histories in Palestine. They tell you where they went to school. They tell you where they lived. They recall fond memories of the scents and flavors of Old Jerusalem. Yet, when you dig beneath the surface, you find most of the stories are fanciful myths worthy of the spinners of Arabian Knights legends.
Thus, Abu Zubaydah is the latest “Palestinian” in the news.
What is his connection? One story suggested his wealthy Saudi parents were refugees – victims of the Palestinian “diaspora.”
The truth is, he’s just another Saudi – not a member of the “oppressed class” of people we have come to know as Palestinians.
A friend in Winnipeg, Canada, told me he ran into an Arab friend, who calls himself a Palestinian, at a sled-dog competition recently. He asked him what he thought about the current conflict in the Middle East.
“I hope it never ends,” he said. “It has given me an identity.”
And so it has. Now he can proudly tell people he is a Palestinian and get sympathy for his victim status. Is it true? Of course not. But perception is everything.
For Zubaydah. For Arafat. And, especially for the New York Times.
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