Debate Magazine

Creating a Narrative

Posted on the 12 June 2014 by Mikelumish @IsraelThrives
Sar Shalom
In a previous post, I asserted that the test of a candidate's pro-Israel bona fides should be judged on what that candidate's narrative surrounding Israel is rather than on how much that candidates avows that he or she will support Israel. I would like to put forward a suggestion for an alternate narrative that would be more robust against delegitimization efforts. As a contrast, it would help to look at the narrative I imputed to Obama:
...the Jews had a connection to the land of Israel long, long ago, but abandoned and forgot it in ancient history, only to remember it in the wake of the horrors of the 20th century in Europe. While the Jews achieved great things when they resettled their home, one cannot ignore that they had to displace a thriving Arab population in order to achieve it.
A few observations from this pernicious narrative: one, we have to deemphasize the eurocentric basis for Jewish self-determination. The eurocentric narrative makes it too easy to claim that "innocent" Palestinians are paying the price for what Europe did during World War II (or even what Europe did during the preceding centuries to those who would admit that). Secondly, we need to do more to establish our indigenousness to the location. References to the Bible in general, and Genesis in particular, may have their place in instilling devotion to the land among the faithful, but to convince others we will need to answer for the time between, in Ruth Calderon's words, Tnach and Palmach.
To counter the delegitimizers' narrative, I propose focusing on the Jews in stayed in the region and only mention Jews from outside insofar as they affect the Jews there. Accordingly, the European Zionists would be noted for augmenting the local Jewish population, rather than creating it from scratch as seems to be the belief among many. An additional objective for a new narrative would be to liken Arab opposition to Zionism to the racism that prevailed in the American South and South Africa.
My narrative would start with the second Judean rebellion during Hadrian's reign. In the wake of that rebellion, Hadrian expelled the Jews from the core of the newly-renamed Palestine, that is from the vicinity of Jerusalem, though the Jews continued to maintain communities in the north and in the south of Palestine, albeit smaller than the community that existed prior to the rebellion. In subsequent centuries, these communities completed the Mishna and the Palestinian Talmud under Roman and then Byzantine rule. Following the Arab-Islamic conquest of the region, the Jews continued on, developing the vocalization system for Hebrew and writing much of the liturgical poetry that we know today.
The Jews suffered under Muslim rule, resulting in many of the local Jews either leaving or becoming Muslim, but this suffering was less than what came as a result of the Crusades. Thus, Jews joined with the Muslim armies in overthrowing the Crusades. At some point, Arab-Muslim rule was transferred to Ottoman-Muslim rule. Under Ottoman rule, there were two types of Muslims to whom the Jews had to accommodate themselves. There were the Ottoman rulers who merely required that the people living in the province accept Ottoman rule. However, there was also the local, largely Arab, Muslim population that expected to maintain the social order from the time of the Arab conquest in which Muslims were on top and Jews below, and would violently enforce that on anyone who did not have protection from the Ottoman authorities. Over time, as the economy in Palestine deteriorated, both Jews and non-Jews left the province, with the Jewish population surviving on alms sent in from Jewish communities from outside.
There were two changes in the 19th century. First, Ottoman authority began to break down, with the result the the local Muslims, as well as the Christian population, had a freer hand to oppress the Jews, which was manifested in the Damascus blood libel of 1840 as well as pogroms across Syria-Palestina in the following decades. Second, the local Jews saw an influx of coreligionists, both from the wider Middle East and from outside the Middle East, who came for their own purposes. These immigrant Jews may have had a paternalistic attitude to the local Jews, but they were more sympathetic to the local Jews than they were to the local non-Jews. Further, they did not come to the region to be subservient the way the effendi saw as their due from any non-Muslim. Much the way the elite whites of the American South kept the lower-class whites by keeping them focused on any n***s asserting too much dignity, the effendi diverted the fellahin's rage by redirecting it to the erosion of Arab and Muslim privilege.
This will need some work. In particular, I would like to work in how the conflict continues today because the Palestinian national movement (PNM) will accept nothing less than the restoration of Arab/Muslim privilege in the entirety of Dar-al-Islam and possibly Matti Friedman's point about how the PNM finds losing to the Jews to be more humiliating than losing to Christians because there is no history of Jews being equal on the diplomatic stage the way there was with the Christians.

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