May 04, 2007

Book Review: A Palestinian Two-Step

From Book Review: A Palestinian Two-Step:

In Once Upon a Country: A Palestinian Life, Sari Nusseibeh misses no opportunity to denigrate and delegitimize Israel through sharp, short, often subtle yet always false readings of history.

His text is marred by countless factual errors and inaccuracies that cast a serious doubt on the validity of his personal narrative, not to mention the wider historical and political picture he seeks to paint.

But Mr. Nusseibeh is not someone to be bothered by the facts. His text is marred by countless factual errors and inaccuracies that cast a serious doubt on the validity of his personal narrative, not to mention the wider historical and political picture he seeks to paint.

--The British foreign secretary who made the famous declaration (in November 1917) on "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people" was Mr. Arthur James Balfour, not " Lord Alfred Balfour," and the declaration was made in a letter to Lord Rothschild, not to Chaim Weizmann.

--Lawrence of Arabia had nothing to do with the Anglo-Hashemite correspondence that led to the "Great Arab Revolt" of World War I, and the person with whom the British plotted the revolt was Emir Hussein ibn Ali (later King Hussein of the Hijaz), not his son Emir Faisal (misrepresented by Mr. Nusseibeh as " Sheikh Faisal Hussein").

--Neither did the British ever promise Faisal (or Hussein for that matter) the headship of the Arab kingdom that would be established on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

--General Edmund Allenby did not occupy Palestine with his Mule Corps but rather with the powerful Egyptian Expeditionary Force, and the Ottoman potentate Djemal Pasha did not surrender to the British in 1917, as it was only in late September 1918 that Allenby scored his culminating victory, in the Battle of Megiddo.

--Sheik Izz al-din al-Qassam, the Syrian religious fanatic operating in Palestine in the mid-1930s, was not hanged by the British but killed in action.

--The Higher Arab Committee (established in 1936) comprised 10, rather than six, members and Jaffa's Arab population in 1948 didn't amount to 200,000 people, but to about a third of this figure.

--The Dome of the Rock was built by Caliph Abdel Malik ibn Marwan and not Mu'awiya, and Caliph Omar did not capture Jerusalem in 638 C.E. after the bloody conquest of Baghdad and Cairo for the simple reason that both cities were established long after the Muslim capture of Jerusalem. And so on and so forth.

If the Arabs reverted to violence, as they occasionally did, it was invariably the Jews' fault, according to Nusseibeh. The 1929 massacres, for example, in which 133 Jews were slaughtered by their Arab neighbors, and hundreds more were wounded, were but "a nasty backlash among Muslims" to Zionist nationalist aspirations regarding the Wailing Wall; just as Arafat's war of terror was a logical reaction to Ariel Sharon's short stroll along the Temple Mount. But then, why should Muslims act differently when Jews, who have no valid claim to Palestine, let alone to the Wailing Wall - "a most likely candidate for being the wall of a fortress built for Roman legions" - make outrageous demands on this holy Muslim site.

This absurd assertion — part of a lengthy historical fabrication of Jerusalem's history posted on the homepage of Al-Quds University, an institution headed by Mr. Nusseibeh — is hardly different from the countless misrepresentations and distortions contained in "Once Upon a Country." It is also congruent with the persistent Palestinian denial of the existence of King Solomon's Temple, and by extension the Jewish millennarian attachment to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. Small wonder that in 2002 he was appointed PLO Commissioner for Jerusalem affairs by Arafat, who in the Camp David summit of September 2000 had told President Clinton that the Temple had been located in Nablus rather than in Jerusalem. To judge by the gist of "Once Upon a Country," Arafat could not have made a better choice.