“There is no such thing as Palestinian people.” Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously said these words in 1969, denying the history and ancient culture of the Palestinian people in the Middle East. At last Wednesday’s Israel-Palestine debate between Professor As’ad AbuKhalil and Israeli Consul General Akiva Tor, the quote was brought up, to which Consul General Tor responded by saying Israel is not a monolithic society and Golda Meir does not speak for all Israelis. Hopefully, neither does the Consul General.
The Consul General described Palestinian nationalism as a “modern phenomenon.” He told the audience there was no such thing as a Palestinian until 1948. Recognizing that most of the crowd was not buying into such distortions, the Consul General condescendingly said to those assembled at the event, “You are all out of touch with the rest of the world.” An archeology professor in the crowd from the Sorbonne University in Paris, who currently has a visiting appointment at Stanford, challenged the Consul General’s statement about Palestinians not existing until 1948, to which the Consul General responded, “It is a historical fact.”
I went to the event hoping to hear ideas for peace, but instead heard a debate that gave no hope to ending the violence. Consul General Tor was either horribly misinformed or intentionally misleading those in attendance about the history of the region. Under the British Mandate, Britain ruled Palestine, and the Palestinians, from 1918-1948. In 1948 the United Nations recognized the state of Israel after the British were unable to resolve the problem between the Zionist Jewish settlers and Palestinians, and turned the decision over to the UN. Ironically, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was also established in 1948 and UN resolution 194 was passed, giving refugees the unalienable right to return to their home in the event of war. Israeli historians Benny Morris and Avi Schlaim have documented that at least 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly driven from homes and made refugees during the 1948 war, yet partly because of mistaken beliefs similar to the Consul General’s, the right of displaced Palestinians has either been ignored or denied. What the Consul General must have meant was that there were no Palestinian refugees until 1948.
Zionist writer Ahad Ha’am in his 1891 essay entitled “Emet me-Eretz Israel” (Truth from the Land of Israel) refutes claims that the land was deserted.
Yosef Gorny is a professor of Study of Zionism and head of the Zionist Research Institute at Tel Aviv University. His book “Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948” details the first encounter between Zionists and Palestine’s indigenous population. I encourage the Consul General to read it and then tell us there was no such thing as a Palestinian until 1948.
Consul General Tor does not appear willing to allow historic, dated, and proven facts of history to stand in the way of his argument. Maybe my family tree can convince him. I am 1⁄4 French, 1⁄4 Salvadorian and 1⁄2 Palestinian. My Father is a Palestinian born in Jerusalem in 1958. My grandmother and grandfather, born in 1920 and 1908 in Jerusalem, are both Palestinians. Tell them there was no such thing as a Palestinian until 1948. Please, Consul General Tor, tell me who I am a descendent of, for I am clearly mistaken.
The biggest problem with the Israeli government is that they know nothing about the people they are in conflict with. The Consul General said he wants peace, but how can that ever be achieved as long as Palestinian hopes are shattered and history denied? The misrepresentations spread by Consul General Tor, whether intentional or not, are enraging and offensive. I do not deny your heritage, Consul General. Please do not deny mine. An understanding of both people’s history in the land is the only chance for survival, which is why I hope that you did not speak for all Israelis in saying there was no such thing as a Palestinian until 1948.
It is only through more discussion and debate that we can clear misconceptions and better understand this complicated issue. Last week’s debate made zero progress towards a proposed resolution. I encourage anyone, regardless of your stance, to submit opinions on the issue to the Foghorn.
Nicholas Mukhar is a senior media studies major and journalism and legal studies minor.