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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Debunking the nakba

Writing in Maariv, Ben Dror Yemini debunks the myth of the nakba.
There is a debate among historians over the number of Arabs who lived during those years in the area of “Palestine,” which, in effect, was composed of districts (Sanjaks) that were subject to Damascus or Beirut, as part of the Ottoman Empire. The most serious testimony about what existed before the First Aliya is a forgotten one. It's known to many scholars, but it doesn't exist in the public discourse. It was made by a delegation of British researchers - the Palestine Exploration Fund - which traveled through the western Land of Israel in 1871 - 1878, from Dan to Beer Sheba, and published a precise and authentic map of settlements in 26 parts, which is rare for its size, type and authenticity. The researchers found a small number of sparse settlements here. The journalist Zeev Galili published a comprehensive investigation following publication of the map, and found that Haifa, for example, was a settlement of 440 x 190 meters. No more than that. Acre and Nazareth were larger settlements, whose area was 600 x 300 meters. The size of Jaffa was 540 x 240 meters. Jerusalem was situated between the walls, and was relatively huge, about 1,000 meters x 1,000 meters. There were a total of about 100,000 residents. A rare collection of photographs of the Land of Israel in those years clarifies the size of the settlements, and gives another fascinating look at those times.

There are those who bring up the famous tour of the Land of Israel in 1891 by Achad Ha’am, who also found cultivated and flourishing fields. It seems, however, that the impressions of Achad Ha’am are dwarfed by a series of well-established findings from that era. Another visitor, like Achad Ha’am, was Mark Twain, who toured the land in 1865. "....A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds... a silent mournful expanse… A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely... We never saw a human being on the whole route. Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes… desolate and unlovely… these unpeopled deserts, these rusty mounds of barrenness…that melancholy ruin of Capernaum; this stupid village of Tiberias slumbering under its six funereal plumes of palms” Of the same mind was Henry Baker Tristram, who made several visits to the Holy Land during those same years, and his descriptions are very close to those of Twain’s.

More well-established testimonies are given in the book of James Finn, the British consul in Jerusalem for 17 years (1845-1862), who traveled the length and breadth of the country and published a book describing the land, which was settled with appalling sparseness, waiting for residents that would redeem it. In a memorandum that he sent in 1857, he noted that “Palestine is mostly empty of residents.”

It appears, however, that the findings of the research delegation are above any dispute. These were not chance visitors. They were researchers who stayed here for years, researched the land, went from settlement to settlement, measured every mountain, settlement and hill, and published six volumes. One of the researchers, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, said about the Judea region that “mile after mile not a living thing is to be seen.”

Despite these findings, there is a sharp debate among researchers, historians and demographers about the number of Arabs who lived in the area before the First Aliya. The estimates range from 100,000 according to the British research delegation and hundreds of thousands according to other researchers. There is another dispute on the question of the extent of Arab immigration to Israel following the advent of Zionism. This issue also occupied other researchers, among them Moshe Braver and Moshe Sharon.

Winston Churchill said in 1939, “Despite the fact that they were not persecuted, masses of Arabs streamed into Palestine and multiplied there until the Arab population increased more than all the Jews of the world could have added to the Jewish population.” There are dozens of information sources on both the sparse Arab population before the First Aliya and on the Arab immigration, the size of which is in dispute, after the advent of Zionism.
Read the whole thing.


At 9:32 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Carl.
Very interesting .
Nothing is worse then the naked truth?

At 10:04 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Arab population increased in response to Zionism. Any honest historian needs to acknowledge it. In truth, the Jews brought great benefits to the Arab population of Eretz Israel. But Jew hatred has a way of interfering with the truth.

The Arabs did more damage to themselves throughout the Mandate period than the Jews ever did to them and they continue to do so today. They and not Israel are the main obstacle to the realization of their own happiness. It is Arab egocentrism that prevents peace from coming to the Middle East.

At 10:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article (as most of Yemini's are--HaShem bless him!), but it ends with a grave error: Yemini is willing to grant the "Palestinians" the status of a real nation just because they define themselves as one. Maybe I should get together with some friends of mine and declare ourselves a nation and demand a state of our own.

No. If you got yourself a general's uniform made and tried to enter General Headquarters with it, you'd spend a good length of time in the slammer for illegally wearing the uniform and impersonating a high-ranking official. You have to participate in wars and prove yourself a good strategist in order to rise in the ranks; the uniform alone won't get you the job. The Arab usurpers of the Land of Israel would have to spend a century or two building a unique cultural entity if they were to become an actual nation. In theory. In practice, even a thousand years wouldn't be enough, because they aren't building anything, period--it's all about taking what's ours. The "Palestinian nation" is an ad-hoc construct tailored for that specific purpose. And nothing else.

They're Arabs. The only way we'd be stealing from the Arab nation is if we built settlement on the Arabian peninsula. As things are, the Arabs are thieves of a humongous mass of land, but all right, we're not here to change the political borders of the entire globe; suffice it here to remind the Arab nation that they are in absolutely no position to complain of dispossession. That's should make good sense, but it wholly depends on the repudiation of the fictional nation called "Palestinian", past, present or future.


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