One must wonder if today's "Palestinians" even understand why they call themselves that – a non-Arabic name in a non-Arabic land.
Could it be the case of being told a lie so many times it sounds like the truth?
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Could it be a case of telling oneself a lie for so long it can't be anything but the truth?
Could it even be the first case of "cultural appropriation"?
Or, could it be the best propaganda ever devised in international politics?
Where to begin?
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How about 1947?
Who called themselves "Palestinians" back then?
Look it up for yourself if you like. You've got the advantages of the internet to do your research now.
The people who called themselves "Palestinians" back then were almost exclusively Jews – the Jews of a region of the Middle East, a country only known officially in the previous millennia as Israel, renamed by the Romans after the diaspora as Palestine. Their passports were even stamped with the name "Palestine." The Arabs who lived there objected to the name. They knew who called themselves "Palestinians" – Jews.
The knew the newspaper of the time, the Palestinian Post, was Jewish – the predecessor to today's Jerusalem Post.
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It wouldn't be until the 1960s before some Arabs began referring to themselves as Palestinians in any organized way. It was a political decision. It was a way to deny the Jews their original homeland – one that had been robbed of them by the Romans.
Do I say this to be mean or unloving? No, I write this to be truthful and because as an Arab-American who loves them, I wants justice, peace and happiness for them – and because you can't build those things on a lie and on violence.
It's much like a story I wrote 18 years ago – one that was read by millions, spreading virally around the world seemingly with the potential to awaken a world deceiving itself.
If you believe what you read in most news sources, Palestinians just want a homeland of their own, and Muslims simply want control over sites they consider holy.
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Then, of course, you must ask yourself why there was no serious movement for an Arab Palestinian homeland prior to 1967. They will tell you today that's because the Israelis took control of the "West Bank and Old Jerusalem" in the Six-Day War in June of that year.
Then, of course, we must ask ourselves from whom Israel captured those historically Jewish lands known as Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. They weren't captured from people who called themselves "Palestinians." They were captured from another existing state known as Jordan, divided from what had originally been set aside as part of a restored Jewish homeland after World War II – but left for the Arab population as was Israel for the Jews.
Why is there still no nation of Palestine today? Because the Jews never adopted the name for their one and only land. They chose the name Israel – the one that dates back to the time of Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon and Jesus.
Palestine has never existed – before or since – as an autonomous entity. It was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I.
There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. Today Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.
Do the Arabs really need the tiny strip of Jewish homeland representing less than 1 percent of the Middle East Arab landmass? Hardly.
But what about those Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem? Aren't they the third holiest in Islam?
That is provably untrue.
Everyone should recognize the No. 1 holy site in all Islam is Mecca, the Qaba, which draws millions of pilgrims annually – perhaps more than any other religious shrine in the world. For instance, while some 5 million visit the Vatican City every year, 18 million Muslims visit Saudi Arabia, and almost all of them go to Mecca, which doesn't allow non-Muslims to enter the city. The annual five-day Hajj, alone, attracted more than 2 million in 2017.
Spiritual pilgrimages are a big deal in Islam, and the No. 2 holy site in all Islam is probably Medina, where Muhammad is buried.
But after Mecca and Medina, there is actually much dispute, even among Muslims, as to which would be Islam's third holiest city. Why? Because while Mecca and Medina are considered holy to all Muslim followers of Muhammad and Allah, not all of them are Sunni. Sunni Islam adherents represent about 80 percent, or roughly 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide. But another 20 percent are Shia, representing as many as 300 million. And Shia Muslims revere shrines in two other cities in Iraq – Najaf and Karbala.
How many make pilgrimage from Najaf to Karbala annually during the Shia Arba'een Pilgrimage? Hold on to your burqa or keffiyeh. Some accounts put it in the millions from as many as 40 countries, often braving attacks from Sunni terrorists and usually traveling barefoot. That's right. This Arba'een Pilgrimage, is a much longer one than the five-day Mecca Hajj and, according to many sources, much larger in sheer number of participants.
Now let's consider Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem.
How many Muslims make pilgrimage to Jerusalem? Israel hosts a total of about 2 million tourists from all over the world every year, but only a tiny fraction are Muslims. Israeli tourists are diverse ethnically but almost all Jewish and Christian. And please don't tell me Muslims are not welcome, because they are. In 2014, the latest statics I could find, showed 26,700 tourists from Indonesia; 23,000 from Turkey; 17,700 from Jordan; 9,000 from Malaysia and 3,300 from Morocco. And those were the biggest numbers.
And maybe you think Muslims stopped coming to Jerusalem, their "third holiest city," after Israel reunified it in 1967. Quite the opposite. There was scarcely any interest in Jerusalem when Jordan controlled Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. Even King Hussein never visited Jerusalem during the time he controlled part of the city for two decades.
If you want to go back further, before the first Zionist Aliyah, you can see what the Dome of the Rock circa 1875 looked like – abandoned, in total disrepair, unvisited. In fact, it didn't get its famous gold-plated roof until the 1950s under Jordanian control, and it had to be redone in 1993 under Israeli authority.
While we're traveling back in history, let's look for Jerusalem in the Quran. Let me save you some time. Stop looking. You won't find it. It's not there, though a passage we read in the Quran did indeed inspire the building of Al-Aqsa.
The Muslim "claim" to Jerusalem is based on what is written in the Quran in Sura 17:1, which says, "Glory be unto Allah who did take his servant for a journey at night from the Sacred Mosque to the Furthest Mosque." How did this "Furthest Mosque" become the one visited by Muhammad in a dream in which he rode a flying camel or horse?
In Muhammad's lifetime, Jerusalem was occupied by the Byzantine Empire. While Muhammad died in 632, Jerusalem was captured by Muslims in 638. When they came, of course, there was no mosque and no Dome of the Rock anywhere in Jerusalem, only churches. One of those churches is believed to have been built atop the Temple Mount. It may have even been converted into the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In fact, both the dome and the mosque display undeniably noticeable Byzantine architectural influences.
When rivals of Muhammad's successors captured Jerusalem from the Christians, they first built the Dome of the Rock, a shrine the conquerors believed to have been the site of the Second Temple, destroyed by the Roman Empire in A.D. 70. The dome was completed in 691 and the Al-Aqsa Mosque some 20 years later, or some 80 years after the death of Muhammad. The "ascension" of Muhammad from the rock under the dome is believed to have been conjured during this period by Khalif Omar, who sought to construct a new holy site to rival the one in Mecca.
Nevertheless, the idea of establishing this shrine and the Al-Aqsa mosque atop the old Temple Mount as permanent Islamic holy places did not catch on, as we can see by comparing them to others in Mecca, Medina, Najaf and Karbala.
In fact, not through the entire time of the Islamic Ottoman Empire, which controlled Jerusalem until World War I, and not until 1929, did the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque stir any passionate interest in Islam. And that was thanks to Adolf Hitler's Muslim friend, Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, who reminded his radical followers of Muhammad's "Night Journey." He stoked the myth to initiate riots that year.
Then, another dreamer, after the 1967 Six-Day War in which Israel reunified Jerusalem under its control, Yasser Arafat, used the shrines to stir Islam's claim to the city, which he called "Al-Quds." Arafat also launched the lie that no Jewish Temple ever rested atop the Temple Mount, though that is precisely why both the dome and the mosque were built there on what Omar believed to be the Temple's very foundation.
On one level, the propaganda coup has fooled most of the world – to such an extent that most Muslims believe the Al-Quds myth. They riot for it all over the world. They commit terrorism in the name of "liberating" it. They boycott, divest, impose sanctions, throw stones, launch missiles, start intifadas and more. Muslims as far as Indonesia today dream of liberating Al-Quds.
But, one thing they don't do? They don't visit. They don't do pilgrimages. Go figure.
How could this be? How has the disinformation and the misinformation been so overwhelming powerful?
The strangest part is that if you want to know the truth, it's out there.
You don't have to take my word for it.
Consider the words of Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Zuheir Mohsen, who, in a March 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, stated ever so bluntly and candidly: "The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality, today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct Palestinian people to oppose Zionism."
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