The root of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict – and ‘the occupation’ of the West Bank – does not date back to 1967.
No, for the Palestinian protagonists in the latest article by the Guardian’s Giles Fraser, you have to go back much, much further in time – to roughly 1300 BC.
Fraser, an Anglican priest and regular Guardian contributor, seems unburdened by even a hint of cognitive dissonance while recounting the following bizarre conversation, in the context of noting the new Exodus film by Ridley Scott (Palestinian Christians find no cry for freedom in the Exodus story, Jan. 2).
We were sitting in a cafe in Ramallah, close by the Kalandia checkpoint. Despite the fact that my Palestinian friends were constantly on the lookout for hermeneutic resources that might aid in the struggle against Israeli occupation, they seemed extremely reluctant to align themselves with liberation theology.
It was only when we started talking about Moses that the scales fell from my eyes. From a western perspective, the Exodus story is the primary text of the biblical cry of freedom. The African slaves who sang spirituals in the cotton fields of America would link their suffering to that of the Jews under Ramses II. Thus, for instance, they sang: “Go down, Moses, Way down in Egypt’s land, Tell ole Pharaoh To let my people go.”
But from a Palestinian perspective, one person’s liberation is another’s slavery. The very story African slaves told each other as the story of their anticipated liberation is, according to Palestinians, at the root of their current occupation. The slaves come out of Egypt and into a land promised them by God. And, for Palestinians, this promise is responsible for their military subjugation, for walls and settlements.
First, it’s actually not clear how this argument works.
Are Fraser’s friends implicitly suggesting – as pro-Palestinian activists sometimes do – that Palestinians are descendants of the ancient Canaanites?
No, more likely it’s just a more modern Palestinian lamentation over the fact that subjugated, cleansed and enslaved Jews – those who weren’t extinguished like millions of their co-religionists in the first half of the 20th century – escaped the yoke of their European and Arab oppressors and sought safety in their ancient homeland.
Of course, Fraser would never dream of suggesting to his friends that if their more recent (actual) descendants had been a bit more humane, and agreed in 1947 – as did Zionist leaders – to fairly partition the land into Jewish and Arab states, the 1948 War would never have occurred, there wouldn’t be even one Palestinian refugee and the State of Palestine would be 66 years old.
Nor would the Guardian contributor ever dream of pointing out that Arab leaders failed to establish an independent Palestinian state in the Jordanian-occupied West Bank and the Egyptian-occupied Gaza prior to 1967, or that the occupation resulting from the Six Day War wouldn’t have occurred in the first place if Arab leaders cared as much about Palestinian Arabs as they did about eliminating the Zionist entity.
And, Giles Fraser would never ask Palestinians why their leaders rejected multiple Israeli proposals for Palestinian statehood, and suggest that the “walls” they complain about – Israel’s security fence – may have something to do with waves of Palestinian suicide bombers in the early 2000s deployed for the purpose of killing innocent civilians and scuttling any further attempts to achieve a lasting peace.
Of course, any such questioning of the Palestinian narrative or raising the slightest challenge to even the most absurd historical claims – such as an Israeli occupation stemming from the Jews’ exodus from Egypt! – is as anathema to the Guardian Left view as treating Palestinians as moral agents who are free to make choices about whether to pursue war or peace, and can decide to abandon the self-destructive scapegoating in which all of their misery is the result of the eternal Jew.