Via Elder of Ziyon links list, I came across a post by Hunter Stuart, a journalist who held all the standard left-wing positions about Israel, and then came to realize the error of his understanding as the result of spending a year and a half in Israel. However, while his experience living in Israel taught him that his perceptions about the present were at odds with the reality, it did not confront him with how his perceptions of the past have elements that are similarly at odds with reality.
I know a lot of Jewish-Israelis who are willing to share the land with Muslim Palestinians, but for some reason finding a Palestinian who feels the same way was near impossible. Countless Palestinians told me they didn’t have a problem with Jewish people, only with Zionists. They seemed to forget that Jews have been living in Israel for thousands of years, along with Muslims, Christians, Druse, atheists, agnostics and others, more often than not, in harmony. Instead, the vast majority believe that Jews only arrived in Israel in the 20th century and, therefore, don’t belong here.As followers of Israel Thrives would know, the best statement that could be made to support the notion that "more often than not, [the Jews and Muslims lived] in harmony" is that the Muslims only rarely massacred the Jews and others living under their jurisdiction. Other than that, the social order was one in which Islam was the master faith and any infidel who would not want to face repercussions had to be obeisant to that reality. Any peace that existed during that time was the result of non-Muslims recognizing their place in society and thus not provoking their Muslim masters.
Of course, I don’t blame Palestinians for wanting autonomy or for wanting to return to their ancestral homes. It’s a completely natural desire; I know I would feel the same way if something similar happened to my own family. But as long as Western powers and NGOs and progressive people in the US and Europe fail to condemn Palestinian attacks against Israel, the deeper the conflict will grow and the more blood will be shed on both sides.
There is nothing wrong in sympathizing with the Palestinians' desire for autonomy. However, Stuart goes beyond that in stating that he doesn't blame the Palestinians "for wanting to return to their ancestral homes," implying that their "ancestral homes" are in the southwestern Levant. The question to pose regarding that claim is what percentage of Arabs living in Mandatory Palestine in the 1920s were born there and of those what percentage were born to parents who were born in what became Mandatory Palestine? Whatever amount of time one deems sufficient to make the Levant one's ancestral home, to claim that just one generation more than since the start of the British Mandate is sufficient just cannot be supported. Moreover, unlike the case of the Jews, the Arabs who did not live in the southwest Levant maintained no connection to the Levant. Thus the contest is not between indigenous residents and immigrants, but between immigrants who had no prior connection (the Arabs) and immigrants returning to their spiritual home (the Jews).
One could ask why this matters. After all, he supports Israel's claims today, what's the big deal if he has mistaken views about the past? However, this ignores Orwell's lesson that "he who controls the past controls the future." As Stuart further wrote:
I’m back in the US now, living on the north side of Chicago in a liberal enclave where most people ‒ including Jews ‒ tend to support the Palestinians’ bid for statehood, which is gaining steam every year in international forums such as the UN.Now how many of Stuart's new neighbors in Chicago believe that "Jew and Arabs lived in peace and harmony, as equals, in the state of Palestine, until white, European, religiously driven Jews were given a country because of the Holocaust, and committed genocide against the indigenous Arabs, while colonising the land using American and British weapons?" Is siding with the Palestinians an unreasonable conclusion from such a premise? While speaking accurately about the pre-Zionism condition of the Jews of the Levant and how many of the Palestinians have bona fide ancestral connections to the land will not necessarily induce his neighbors to abandon their factually erroneous view, accepting the false facts will definitely not challenge those views and thus leave in place the narrative that standing with the Palestinians is like standing with the Civil Rights movement that ended Jim Crow rather than standing with the Klan that opposed Reconstruction and ushered in Jim Crow.