Sunday, December 24, 2017

Palestinian Group Think and the Victim Narrative: Part One

In the aftermath of the indubitably press-worthy US-Jerusalem embassy move story that the media has so dutifully covered over the last few weeks, we were all visually treated to the incredibly predictable global Arab / Muslim reaction to the announcement. In light of this uptick in violence and hyperbolic rhetoric, I thought it might be a good juncture to upload a post that I've been peripherally working on for a few months about Palestinian group and political victim identity and by extension, general Muslim perceptions regarding their relationship with the non-Muslim world.

As a disclaimer I should point out that obviously, what follows is an analysis of socio-cultural patterns of behavior, and do not reflect the sensibilities of either all Palestinians or all Muslims, particularly those who are aberrant exceptions to those dominant cultural themes discussed hereafter.

A friend, once famously (at least to me), and very wisely, described the political aspirations of the Palestinian cause as the "history of bad ideas and decisions". By this he of course meant that the leadership of Muslim Palestinians in the occupied territories, i.e., Fatah (the P.L.O) and Hamas, before and since the creation of the State of Israel, had at every opportunity plotted a political course that was so strategically ill-advised that there was no way their leadership could supply them with any of the stated goals of their movement, no matter which goal one is referring to.

In retrospect, it is painfully obvious, and has been for quite some time, that the leaders of those para-military, public relations-driven juntas have gained huge personal financial wealth while keeping "the people's struggle" going, at the expense of their manipulated population; a sizable portion of which coincidentally continues to subsist in less than ideal living conditions. Of course, these privations were, and are, always blamed on the "horribly evil Israelis/Zionists", rather than a failure by the leadership to improve the people's lot. But, they, the Israelis, were/are the foreign imperialist occupiers, and that is acutely "obvious" to everyone. After all, these Jews spoke an "alien" language, or rather languages, plural, they practiced a different faith, and maintained folkways that are, well, just weird. The Palestinians often cry that they are the victims of an ongoing genocide, but as the size of the Palestinian population has once again doubled in the last twenty years, I must point out that this math therefore clearly defines the Israelis as "the most incompetent genociders in the history of the world".

But, I digress.

Palestinian Muslims Arabs, and by extension, the rest of the Muslim world, have been involved in an ongoing internal rewrite of their own history for almost a century now, and this rewrite has required them to embrace a narrative that has fused modern political aspirations with Arab Romanticism (i.e. a romance they possess with their own ancient history and heroic figures), Western Leftist (Socialist) "oppressed indigenous persons" historical revisionism, and a selective interpretation of certain portions of the Quran, Quranic abrogation, and a retroactive deconstruction of the historical development of Islam and its relationship to the other monotheistic religions. This philosophic melange, fueled by bombastic hyperbole, aggravated emotions, some philosophic acrobatics, and the innate clannishness of regional Arabic culture, has resulted in the Palestinians being the most susceptible Arabic sub-cultural entity to suffer from "Group Think".

I don't think that this phenomena is any amazing news flash to anyone, globally, but if you are in doubt of this paradigm, I recommend a quick perusal of that bastion of all things verity, YouTube, and watch closely to any video wherein a group of "average" Palestinians are asked an opinion question, in a group, on the street in Israel or the territories. It is absolutely fascinating how when put on the spot, glances are shared and faces search for peer approval for the "correct" answer to every single question. One dare not be wrong, because the consequences of being on the socio-political outside are just too great and damning. Ironically, this phenomena is exactly inverted when Israelis are asked literally anything in a public forum, for as the old joke goes, "Israel is a country with four million (now eight) prime ministers". But, in the Palestinian's case, this filial loyalty to the established narrative is a requirement of being accepted as part of the community, and so, the narrative they ascribe to must be potent, consistent, holistic, straightforward, and above all, INCREDIBLY simple.

So lets look at the Palestinian "story", and analyze it by its own criteria, and compare it with recorded historical facts, and juxtapose and interpolate it against the Israeli, or rather, the Jewish "story".

As an aside, it is almost needless to say that the Palestinians are the first to make the supposed, and oh so, political distinction between Jewish, Israeli and the dreaded "Zionists" (It is interesting how so many people who are not Jewish believe they have some sort of right to define Jews, Jewish Culture, or Judaism...hmm). As I have made clear about myself in previous articles, unlike leftist revisionists, self-hating Jews, or deluded ultra orthodox traitors, I personally fail to see a grand distinction between Jew and Zionist on any substantive basis, because, to me, a Zionist is just a Jew who believes that Israel has a right to exist, and they are not a group or inhuman monsters working a conspiracy theory that sounds remarkably like Herr Hitler's medieval-inspired hate polemic powered by an orderly conformity to Germanic civilization. Thus, I deny this distinction as a valid element in this argument and consider it moot. You are free to personally disagree, of course, but that is not the way of the Gauntlet. 

I also strongly believe that when pressed the grand majority of Palestinians, particularly those radicalized by political Islam, (and generally women even quicker than men), will dismiss this public relations fantasy and reset to their innate emotional narrative (a trait they share with western leftists), and they will blur the line between the two, and embrace the hyperbolic posturing and conquest narrative that is clearly dominant in their sub-culture. 

But once again, I digress. So lets begin...

Premise 1: The Palestinians generally believe that they have a natural right to the entirety of the land in question due to a primogenitor of culture, genetics, dominance, and length and duration of habitation within said land. This entails that they are not simply the descendants of Arab immigrants from surrounding nations, but that their ancestors were part of the initial conquest of the Holy Land under the Caliph Umar, and ultimately they must assert that they are tangentially the genetic descendants of the biblical Canaanites, Ismaelites, Philistines, or other local Hamito-Semitic or Aryan peoples. Contrarily, the Jews, or Israelis, can't possibly be the genetic descendants of the biblical Children of Israel or any other local people, and in general they deny that the Jews were ever the historically dominant population of the area. The proof that Palestinians believe supports this is that the Jews were predominately historically absent from the land in great numbers, speak a "foreign" language, and practice a religion that has been supplanted and superseded by the final revelation, Islam.

Refutation 1: When given an equivalence of their fellow countrymen currently living abroad, who hypothetical seek to retain their ethno-religious identity in exile, and long to return to their homeland, the entertainment of this premise results in overt cognitive dissonance among Palestinians questioned.

Palestinians can not fathom considering a return after more than just a few generations, since to accept that paradigm would be tantamount to acknowledging and justifying the return of Jews to Israel after their long absence. Thus, this thought must be replaced with a false logic denial that Jews must have never lived in the region in the first place. This is easily reinforced collectively by the fact that Palestinians are tied together in clan bonds sub-regionally, by city, town or village, by dialect, and macro-cosmically by Islam, which is a religion they share with 1.8 billion other Muslims worldwide. Thus, the Jews can easily be depicted, and/or vilified, in folk culture and in the media as the ultimate "stranger" as a means of polemic, regardless of actual common knowledge, information, or personal experience.

In contrast, Jews have historically possessed a language apart, and held onto a religion that was designed as an inward looking system that was born and designed specifically to serve their needs as a community in exile from their homeland. This trifecta of distinctions in race, religion and language made it easier for Jews in the diaspora to maintain their folkways and to breed little Jews through the generations. Surely, there was intermarriage and conversion into the faith (once again, usually through marriage), but this allowed Jews to continue to exist as a distinct ethno-religious entity without an ethno-state for about 1800 years after the political fall of the last Jewish political entity in 135 C.E.

According to both Roman and Jewish sources, and modern population studies, Jews supposedly made up about one-tenth of the population of the Roman Empire, but probably far less than 5%, if you ask me. By the first century Jews comprised sizable minorities in Egypt, Libya, Syria, North Africa, and what is now Iraq and Iran. However, the onus of Jewish culture was centered in Jerusalem, and the majority of Jewish numbers were localized in Judea, whose total population numbered somewhere around 1.5 million persons. The population of the area was broken down into the Jewish, Idumean, and Samaritan communities, with lesser numbers of Ismaelites (Arabs), the remnants of the Canaanite population, Syro-Phonicians (Lebanese), and Greek and Roman colonists. Jews and Idumeans were by this time virtually indistinct from one another and represented some 80% of the total population. In the three dreadful wars with Romans at least 85% of the Jewish population of the land was exterminated right out, leaving the land "empty" to any travelers in late antiquity who happened to journal about the desolate environs of what the Romans renamed "Palestine". Linguistically it was named so after the non-Canaanite tribe that "occupied" the coastal strip (Gaza) about a millennia earlier. Were it not for the spread of Christianity in the third and fourth centuries, it is highly unlikely that the non-Jewish, non-Samaritan, non-European population of the region would have survived as a viable distinct ethnic entity into the modern era. In fact, as late as the Ottoman period (16th to 19th century), Palestine (not what the Turks called it) was both abysmally poor and by all metrics would be considered "underpopulated".

In the wake of the Roman War the majority of Jews abandoned the region entirely and fled to surrounding nations. It is estimated by geneticists that the majority of the Ashkenazi Jewish community which flourished in large numbers starting in the fourteenth century was originally derived from about 600 Judean refugees who landed in Southern Italy and made their way north and north east.

Muslims first arrived in Palestine in the late seventh century from the Arabian peninsula and began the process of settlement and conversion. Genetic studies point to the fact that Arabs who live specifically around the Nablus area share many gene markers with the remaining (less than a 1000 person), Samaritan community who live nearby. Since these markers are localized around Nablus it is quite clear that local Arabs were at one time Samaritans who were converted to Islam. Likewise, Palestinians boast a melange of markers that combine Arab genetics with Jewish markers, paternally, and Sub-Saharan markers, maternally, which points to Jews being converted to Islam, and their African slaves being manumitted. This melange of Canaanite, Jew, Samaritan, Arab and African genes, and to a lesser extent Kurdish and Turkish influence, in essence supplies the core of Palestinian genetic identity.

A large percentage of the Palestinian population, specifically clustered around the Nablus (Ancient Greek: Neopolis) area in the northern West Bank is believed to be descended from Samaritans who had converted to Islam before the modern period. Like Jews and Christians, Samaritans converted to Islam in large numbers over the ages due to taxation, harassment and persecution under various Muslim rulers, particularly in the Turkish Ottoman period. Scholars believe that certain Nabulsi family names such as Maslamani, Yaish, and Shaksheer, and others are associated with Samaritan ancestry, and of course, the DNA is there.

The issuance of the Egyptian Fatimid Caliphates' edict of al-Hakim in the year 1021 C.E., under which all remaining Jews and Christians in the Levant were forced to either convert to Islam or emigrate, left the Samaritans (who had also been massacred by the Romans) at the hands of the rebel ibn Firasa - who imposed a dramatic slew of forced conversions upon their community which led to a sudden, dramatic decrease in their presence. This aided in lowering Samaritan numbers from close to a million and a half strong in Byzantine times, just prior to the Muslim invasion to a scant 146 persons by the end of the Ottoman Era.

Similarly to Egypt, which was approximately 90% Coptic Christian upon the arrival of Muslim forces, it took until about the year 1200 (more than 500 years) for attrition and the process of Islamization to shift the population of Palestine to Muslim dominance. While the general population of "Palestine" was minimal from the Muslim conquest of Umar to when the Crusaders arrived, the Crusader Kingdom further diminished both the Muslim and Jewish populations. With the reconquest of the Levant by Saladin, the Holy Land was firmly delivered into the numerical upper hand of Islam. Regardless, the population remained low, never exceeding 350,000 in number until the 19th century, and was divided between the distinct but shrinking Jewish, Samaritan, and Christian communities and the slowly ever-increasing Islamic presence.

In time, the Jewish community in Ottoman Palestine gained some numbers from Sephardi Jewish refugees arriving fresh from Andalusia (Southern Spain) around the year 1500, but the Turks just as soon routinely "resettled" many of these newly arrived "proto-Zionist" Jews to recently conquered European territories like the Balkans and Austria, in order to help facilitate the Sultan's hand by placing subjects who, well, relied on the protection implicit in reciprocal, or rather, dependent relationship.

This situation continued with various small influxes of Jews to specific towns and cities in tandem with a slow general migration of Arabs across the Jordan for the next three to four hundred years with little change. While the Muslim community grew exponentially in birth rate in tandem to the growth in the local economy and improved services through the late Ottoman period, much of this was spurred on by development that originated in part from forces external to the area; including the Turks, British, Christians and Ashkenazi Jews, rather than from local entrepreneurship.

It wasn't until the late nineteenth century when the birth of the Zionist movement was spurred on by the Dreyfus case and the publication of Theodore Herzl's "The Jewish State" that this all changed. As an ethno-religious community which viewed itself, and was viewed as, somewhat foreign, yet attached to the European context, Jews soon embraced the self-deterministic thread that had grown up around them starting with the independence movements of the late eighteenth century and culminated in bevy of European nationalist and social movements that were born in the fourth decade of the nineteenth century.

In light of the numerous massacres that occurred in this period in Eastern Europe and the rising tide of Antisemitism in Western Europe, Jewish immigration to the area suddenly increased, much to the chagrin of the "indigenous" Palestinian population, many of whom had themselves not so long ago immigrated into the area.

Contrary to the emotionalism of the established Palestinian narrative, there was never a period in the recorded history of the "Holy Land" from 1208 B.C.E. (the Mernepthah steele) until the present in which there was not some Jewish presence, be it large or small, in the land. To be fair, the same can be said for non-Jewish Palestinians. From their ancient Canaanite, Philistine and Ismaelite antecedents through the Ummayad Caliphate till the present, non-Jews have likewise shifted from majority to minority and back again, and then again, and like the Jews, there has always been a non-Jewish presence in this often disputed land. Hence, the crux of the problem.

To be continued in Part Two.

Till next time.

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