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Israel’s bogus history lesson

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It was presumably intended as an Israeli history lesson to the world. A video posted to social media by Israel’s foreign ministry shows an everyday Jewish couple, Jacob and Rachel, in a home named the “Land of Israel”. A series of knocks on the door brings 3,000 years of interruptions to their happiness. First it’s the Assyrians, followed by the Babylonians, Hellenists, Arabs, Romans, Crusaders, Mamluks, and Ottomans – all straight out of Monty Python central casting.

Jacob and Rachel are forced by the warring factions to relocate to ever smaller parts of their home until finally they have to pitch a tent in the garden. Their fortunes change only with the arrival of a servant of the British Empire, who returns the title deeds. A final knock disturbs their celebrations. On the doorstep are a penniless Palestinian couple, craning their necks to see what goodies await them inside.

The chauvinism in portraying Jacob and Rachel as the only normal folk, stoically enduring barbarians butchering each other in their living room, is ugly enough. But it is harder still to take seriously an account in which the Palestinians suddenly appear out of nowhere in 1948, as Britain departs.

A mile from my home in Nazareth are the ruins of Saffuriya, a centuries-old Palestinian town until the Israeli army expelled the inhabitants in 1948 and blew up their homes. More than 500 villages were similarly razed.

In places where buildings were left untouched, it is Jews – not Palestinians – who squat in someone else’s home. But the falsification runs deeper.

Next to the rubble of Saffuriya lies the much older Roman city of Sephoris, where Jews settled nearly 2,000 years ago after their failed revolts against the Roman empire. A surviving synagogue’s mosaic floor reveals that the Jews of Sephoris worshipped the sun, so close had they grown to the area’s pagan population.

Other entanglements abound. In Nazareth’s old city is the world’s only “synagogue church”, where Jesus reputedly delivered his first sermon. It is a reminder that many local Jews would soon be calling themselves Christians, and later Muslims. Farther north, in the town of Bokaya, an ancient synagogue can be found next to churches and mosques. For centuries the Abrahamic faiths lived alongside each other in a communal harmony unknown in Europe.

In fact, contrary to Israel’s version of history, the most violent clashes – aside from the Jewish revolts – coincided with invasions by Europeans, whether the aggressive sectarianism of the Crusaders, or the British-backed creation of an ethno-religious “Jewish state” by Zionists. More usually, Palestine’s past was marked by cultural tolerance and genetic diversity. Conversions and intermarriages meant the region was a melting pot of identities and beliefs.

Israel, of course, prefers to obscure that history, because it leads to an obvious conclusion: the region needs less, not more, tribalism and dogma of the sort Israel favours.

The Jewish majority in Israel lives almost entirely apart from the Palestinians who stayed on their land and are today nominally citizens. Meanwhile, in the West Bank – known to Israelis as the Biblical kingdoms of “Judea and Samaria” – Jewish settlers lord it over a ghettoised Palestinian population subject to military rule.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been drafting a basic law defining Israel as belonging to a globalised “Jewish nation”, not the country’s citizens. And he insists that peace talks take place only once the Palestinians under occupation recognise Israel as such a Jewish state – a condition that, once viewed as risible, has now been adopted by Washington.

In a sign of the prevailing mood, Israel’s education ministry has recently banned from the curriculum two novels featuring romantic attachments between Jews and Arabs. At the same time, the “green line” that once demarcated the occupied Palestinian territories has been erased from Israeli classroom maps, implying instead that it is all Greater Israel.

Faced with Israel’s zero-sum policies and diplomacy, Palestinians have grown increasingly anxious about the future.

Last week a resolution from Unesco, the UN’s scientific and cultural body, gave voice to their concerns. It highlighted Israeli threats to the most important Muslim and Christian heritage sites under occupation.

Recognising the importance of Jerusalem “for the three monotheistic religions”, the resolution nonetheless warned that Israel was exploiting its illegal control to erase the Palestinians’ connection to such sites, especially Al Aqsa mosque.

Hoping to deflect attention away from these criticisms, Israel railed against the UN for denying primacy to its narrative. Al Aqsa must be billed equally as Temple Mount, Mr Netanyahu insisted, referring to a long-lost Jewish temple believed to be buried under the Jerusalem mosque.

But the ruined temple’s likely location leads to the opposite conclusion Mr Netanyahu has reached: not that the Jews have a stronger claim to sovereignty, but that the region’s peoples and religions are impossibly intertwined.

That should be the chief lesson for the current Jacobs and Rachels, many of them living in armed and relentlessly expanding colonies on stolen Palestinian territory.

This land was always shared, and there will be no peace until it is again.

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His new website is

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48 Responses

  1. Citizen on October 19, 2016, 10:42 am


  2. John O on October 19, 2016, 11:27 am

    About the only printable thing I can say about the film is – that’s the worst English accent since Dick van Dyke.

  3. Mooser on October 19, 2016, 12:13 pm

    Gosh, I bet “Jon s” the “Israeli history teacher”, loves this video.

  4. Jackdaw on October 19, 2016, 1:07 pm

    Jonathan, don’t you ever stop obsessing about the Jews?

    No, Jonathan. The Jews of Sepphoris didn’t worship the sun. Their synagogue mosaic depicts the immutable cycle of nature.

    And of course, you omit mentioning the Jewish, biblical motifs also depicted in the mosaic.

    • amigo on October 19, 2016, 2:29 pm

      “No, Jonathan. The Jews of Sepphoris didn’t worship the sun. Their synagogue mosaic depicts the immutable cycle of nature. ” jackduh.

      Jackduh , if you cared so much about your fellow Jews , you wouldn,t spend so much of your time and effort embarrassing them.

      • Jackdaw on October 19, 2016, 3:48 pm


        You have Jews on the brain, and you can’t get them out of your head.

        I bet you could have done so much more with your life too.

      • DaBakr on October 20, 2016, 6:06 pm


        Nobody is embarrassing any body. In fact there is still no concrete explanation for why synagogues throughout the land of Judea and further had both images of the sun, Helios, the sun God and his four horses.
        There are numerous plausible explanations but it must be considered that not only are these synagogues covered with Jewish symbols galore in addition to any Hellenistic image the same image of Helios appears underneath st Peter’s in Rome with Jesus portrayed as Helios as well.

      • echinococcus on October 20, 2016, 6:51 pm

        Typical answer by an ignoramus with Zionist-fed education from start. No classics, no history, only nationalist myth.

      • DaBakr on October 20, 2016, 11:23 pm

        What does that mean? I’m a Greek nationalist? Out seems like your too blinded by tank hatred you don’t understand what the response was about. Maybe you could give all a lecture on Helios, Zeus, the Sun, and it’s relation to the Hellenistic culture that dominated the region during Alexanders empire.

        Although it’s likely you just want to screech about how there is no connection between the land and the Jews (including Sephardic and Ashkenazc who dispersed through northern Africa, Persia and Europe) *

        *cue up the khazzer bullsht

        **btw- the video was mildly amusing but not very funny. At least no funnier then the Palestinian video for school children about Jesus being the first Palestinian freedom fighter.

        Ok, maybe that was pretty funny.

      • Mooser on October 21, 2016, 11:56 am

        “. In fact there is still no concrete explanation for why synagogues throughout the land of Judea and further had both images of the sun, Helios, the sun God and his four horses”

        As new evidence has come to light, most Chef Rabbis have concluded that the synagogues having the image of “Helios, the sun God” contained both a mikveh and a tanning salon on the premises.

      • echinococcus on October 21, 2016, 2:40 pm

        “Da” Bakr

        What does that mean? I’m a Greek nationalist?

        I don’t think anyone could ever stumble on such a ridiculous idea. No, correct that. Come to think of it, you offer an unmistakable family resemblance with Chrysé Augé (=Golden Dawn) members.

        Maybe you could give all a lecture on Helios, Zeus, the Sun, and it’s relation to the Hellenistic culture that dominated the region during Alexanders empire.

        In fact, I have done so in an earlier life; no matter what, “its” as a genitive is still written without an apostrophe in this here life.

    • rosross on October 20, 2016, 11:17 pm

      Judaism like all religions drew on beliefs, religions, practices of the time. Much of Judaism can be traced to ancient Egyptian religion, demonstrating a common source, which is logical, for all religious beliefs. The ancient Egyptians no doubt also drew on earlier spiritual sources. It has always been the way of it.

  5. Ossinev on October 19, 2016, 1:27 pm

    The knock on the door wasn`t by heavily armed military thugs at 0300 a.m.. And the so called “Palestinian couple” didn`t take away the poor oppressed Jewish couples children , lock them up , deny them access to legal support , deny parental access and torture them Dershowitz style.. The video is a sick joke because Zionist Israelis and their supporters in the West have become precisely that – a sick joke.

    Fanatics don`t make for good comedians or honest historians. There have been lots of very good Jewish comedians in the West. No doubt a few remain and others will surface. When I say good I mean honest and able to take the proverbial out of themselves and the nonsense claims of some of their co – religionists. The relentless onslaught of politically correct Zionism has meant that even honorable Jews are dodging scripts which challenge or humorise the Chosen People/Promised Land narrative. Unfortunately when I think of Israeli Jews and Judaism now thanks to Zionism I don`t think of humour – I think of fanaticism,lies, hypocrisy,brutality and as one of their very own the ex Prime Minister Ehud Barak has pointed out “the seeds of Fascism”.

  6. amigo on October 19, 2016, 2:03 pm

    Longing for the good olde days when hasbara like , “A Land without people for a people without land ” worked a treat but then all those super smart zionists went and invented pc,s and smart phones and and WWW and now it ain,t so easy to get past the finish with the usual bs.

    In the not too distant future when the so called greater israel is not so great anymore and zionism has been dispatched to the bin of history people will view videos like this one and wonder at just how insane the whole concept of zionism was and ask themselves how civilised people could have allowed such barbarism to exist in the 21st century.

  7. Marnie on October 19, 2016, 2:09 pm

    Will the zionist eternal victimhood ever end?

    • inbound39 on October 19, 2016, 8:46 pm

      Yes Marnie…it’ll end as will their occupation and perpetual thievery… is historical fact that actions such as theirs eventually backfire and they disappear from the pages of time. All Israel is doing currently is guaranteeing its demise and inevitable outcome that on this occasion the World powers will ensure that nothing like it will be allowed by the Jewish Right Wing ever again.

      • Marnie on October 21, 2016, 12:03 am

        I’d like to think that the ‘world powers’ would get off their collective behinds and do whatever it takes to end this colonial nightmare and I hope so for the sake of Palestinians who are sick of this 70+ year illegal, unending attempts to wipe them off the map: first, their physical bodies, then demolish their cities and towns, destroying their livelihoods and livestock, robbing their children of their childhood and security, etc.

  8. Rusty Pipes on October 19, 2016, 4:46 pm

    They must have cut the first scene where Jacob and Rachel locked the Canaanite homeowners in the basement.

    • Misterioso on October 20, 2016, 10:39 am

      Well said!!

      To quote the renowned historian/anthropologist and “Holy Land” specialist, Professor Ilene Beatty:

      “When we speak of ‘Palestinians’ or of the ‘Arab population [of Palestine]‘, we must bear in mind their Canaanite origin. This is important because their legal right to the country stems…from the fact that the Canaanites were first, which gives them priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and (except for the 800,000 dispossessed refugees [of 1948 along with the further hundreds of thousands expelled before and after the war Israel launched on 5 June 1967]) they are still living there, which gives them present possession. Thus we see that on purely statistical grounds they have a proven legal right to their own land.” (“Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan,” 1957)

      In short, today’s Palestinians and their ancestors have been living continuously between the River and the Sea for about 9,000 years.

    • DaBakr on October 20, 2016, 11:29 pm

      . Or they could have shown them slaughtering the amalkites . and I’ve always wanted to see a film depiction of the great judge samsom killing over 10,000 with an animals jawbone.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2016, 7:29 pm

        .” Or they could have shown them slaughtering the amalkites . and I’ve always wanted to see a film depiction of the great judge samsom killing over 10,000 with an animals jawbone.”

        That’s a good way to distract yourself from the reality of the demographic facts. We can disappear without any slaughter.

  9. lonely rico on October 19, 2016, 9:11 pm

    I’m amazed to learn so much from this video !

    Learning the truth about Palestine and the Jews.

    NOT expelled from their god-given land in AD 72,
    NOT wandering through Arabia, Persia, Slavic and Nordic lands,
    NOT persecuted, tormented, abused, rejected, hated and “pogromated” in those foreign places

    NO. They were just down in the basement, (maybe it was in the kid’s room),
    waiting for God, or was it the (oh so decent) Brits, to give them back their land.

    Hava nagila ve-nismeḥa (Let’s rejoice and be happy)

  10. WH on October 20, 2016, 3:53 am

    Another omission is the fact that they only got rid of the Brits by militant means.

    • DaBakr on October 20, 2016, 11:31 pm


      You mean terroristic means, Im sure. Call it what it was.

      • Mooser on October 21, 2016, 11:28 am

        “Call it what it was”

        That’s right! The burgeoning national consciousness, and nationalist actions of 180 million Zionists worldwide needs make no excuses!

      • echinococcus on October 26, 2016, 8:18 pm

        If you want to call it a long prearranged Punch and Judy show, or opposition as substantial as the difference between Democrat and Republican parties in the US, I’d go with that.
        To believe that the English did not intend to crush the locals under the Zionist boot and leave them under the new colonial overlords would be more than a little naive.

  11. Ossinev on October 20, 2016, 7:58 am

    @lonely rico

    Ah but to be fair the video neglected to highlight all the current forlon wandering round Brooklyn,Florida and North London which has prompted so many to “return” to their ancient Promised Land and act out their cherished ( and heavily subsidised ) Biblical dream.

  12. JWalters on October 20, 2016, 5:17 pm

    Note to moderator: I changed this post since it was rejected. The first clause in the last sentence was modified.

    Knock knock!

    A: Who’s there?
    B: Menachim.
    A: Menachim who?
    B: Menachim Begin.

    Door opens.

    A: How can I help you?
    B: You can move out of this house. We’re moving in.
    A: I’m sorry, but my family lives here.
    B: They can’t live here anymore. You’ll have to leave.
    A: But my family has lived here for over 500 years. We have the deeds.
    B: I have my holy book. It says my ancestors lived in this area thousands of years ago, and God granted them this land. Now I’m here and you’ll have to leave.
    A: This is our home, we’re staying.
    B: In that case we’ll slaughter your whole family. And we’ll slaughter all the other families in Dir Yassin.
    A: What! You’re crazy! Why?!
    B: So your neighbors in all the surrounding towns will be terrified, and will flee for their lives.
    A: You’ll never get away with this!
    B: We’re backed by very powerful bankers, we can get away with anything.

  13. Elizabeth Block on October 20, 2016, 8:55 pm

    In about 1935, when Japan was extending its imperial ambitions over its neighbours, Ogden Nash wrote this:

    How courteous is the Japanese,
    He always says, “Excuse it, please.”

    He climbs into his neighbour’s garden,
    And bows, and says, “I beg your pardon.”

    He bows, and grins a friendly grin,
    And brings his hungry family in.

    He grins, and bows a friendly bow.
    “So sorry, this my garden now.”

    • Mooser on October 21, 2016, 11:30 am

      Ah! As “tokyobk” might say, one man’s “imperial ambitions” is another man’s “civil rights”.

  14. Elizabeth Block on October 20, 2016, 8:56 pm

    And btw: This is the first time in a long time that I’ve actually been able to post a comment! I don’t know what was wrong with the website, but I’m glad it’s fixed.

  15. Sulphurdunn on October 21, 2016, 4:15 pm

    To believe that the forebears of Jacob and Rachel lived in Canaan 3,000 years ago requires them to have been Europeans. If that is so, they were probably Philistines.

  16. anti_republocrat on October 22, 2016, 1:02 am

    It would come just a little closer to the truth if instead of the British soldier knocking on the door, it were Baron Rothschild serving a foreclosure notice.

  17. Dmesh on October 22, 2016, 10:35 am

    Palestine =philistine. Even the zionist holy book admits Palestinians have ancient ties to that land!

  18. xanadou on October 22, 2016, 6:21 pm

    I find the visual subtext to be a reluctant admittance that ol’-timey Israel of David, Solomon, et al, never was. A clumsy hat-tip to the truth and efforts of archeologists such as Finkelstein/Silberman (“Bible Unearthed”.)

    Jacob and Rachel and their contemporary, 2016 CE, garb are countered by the previous contenders to the land of Palestine who are wearing the fashion of the appropriate year BCE, i.e., contemporary garb from the time those invaders had made their claim to the land of Palestine. Ergo, J&R are as temporary and brutish as those they are supposed to be mocking.

    The silence of the Palestinians who do NOT cross the threshold is likely an unintended tribute to their millennia old patience that will prevail.

    Talk about about a narrative backfiring…

  19. jon s on October 25, 2016, 7:16 am

    The video is indeed stupid and offensive, typical of the mindset of the Netanyahu-Lieberman-Bennet government.

    And no, the Jews of Sepphoris did not worship the sun.

  20. Mooser on October 25, 2016, 12:44 pm

    “And no, the Jews of Sepphoris did not worship the sun.”

    What a great idea! Let’s drain the sacredness from nature, and instead make us a God of History! Real good decision.

    • gamal on October 25, 2016, 3:03 pm

      “And no, the Jews of Sepphoris did not worship the sun.”

      the evidence is they probably did as God in his infinite told us, his 3rd time lucky shot at religion, not to pray fajr at dawn, before or after, he doesn’t trust us in respect of Sun worship, see how you’ve ruined it for everyone, i know we don’t count but we are evidence.

      what is that tractate Avodah Zarah about?

      what are you basing your assertion on jon? an inner need?

      don’t the mitnagedim claim hassids worship the tzadik, prima facie shirk.

      do you originate from anywhere in particular in your ancestral homeland i have relatives, Toweels in Nablus or you just come from all of it equally, like theoretically.

      i knew Rabbi Louis Jacobs and remember the “Jacobs Affair”, i have reason to believe you may find it interesting, don’t be a general Jew Jon specify.

      • Mooser on October 25, 2016, 7:25 pm

        “gamal” it would never do for us Jews to worship the sun. You can depend on the sun.
        No, we worship the God of History. A dumb-ass mistake if there ever was one.

      • jon s on October 26, 2016, 11:07 pm

        Parts of your comment are rather incoherent.

        On tractate Avodah Zarah:

        The image found on the mosaic in the synagogue does not prove that the Jews worshipped the sun.

        From where? Jerusalem.

      • wondering jew on October 27, 2016, 12:21 am

        I was reminded of this verse from psalms kjv 84:11 “for the Lord God is a sun and a shield”. The soncino comments: “nowhere else in the Bible is this said of God, perhaps because of the prevalence of sun-worship by other peoples. It equals “my light” as in psalms 27:1.”

      • wondering jew on October 27, 2016, 12:35 am

        And regarding citizenship or registry in jerusalem or zion, psalms 87: 5-6 is relevant (although may be dismissed as theory by those who accept moses in theory, but not the actual hebrew bible).
        “And of Zion it shall be said, ‘this and that man was born in her,’ and the highest himself shall establish her. The Lord shall count when he writeth up the people that this man was born there, Selah.”

      • MHughes976 on November 6, 2016, 10:20 am

        Just come across, as one does, the comment of Talmud Sukkah 51b on Ezekiel 8:16, where the habit of praying to the Sun, or at least praying with face to the east, is recognised as ancestral but condemned. But things weren’t that clear cut, eastward prayer seeming to be demanded in Ez. 46. Josephus Wars 2:128 says plainly enough that prayer to the sun continued among the Essenes, allegedly using ‘ancestral prayers’ (a revealing phrase) though the Temple Scroll calls for the death penalty for the practice. Josephus doesn’t seem shocked, though he considers himself to be a Pharisee. All this has some relevance to the interpretation of the early synagogues. And to the lack of uniformity in first century religious forms which we call Judaism and Christianity.
        I think that the idea that the sun sort of represents God, so that we literally walk in God’s light and have a window into the divine world, though one through which we cannot look, is rather charming. Doesn’t help us much with the question of who should be enfranchised in the Holy Land, though.

      • RoHa on November 7, 2016, 8:28 pm

        “I think that the idea that the sun sort of represents God,…”

        But why should we have that idea? Is it not more reasonable (and both Ockhamist and Butlerian) to think that the Sun is itself, and, if we are going to worship anything, is worthy of worship in itself? At least we can be fairly sure that the Sun more or less exists.

      • Mooser on November 8, 2016, 10:59 am

        I’ll worship the sun, I’ll worship the stars, I’ll worship the cycle of nature, I’m, easy.

        But I’ll be damned if I will worship God of History. If we Jews think we can approach God through the way history treats us, we’ve been led up the garden path and into the outhouse.

      • Mooser on November 8, 2016, 12:45 pm

        “think we can approach God through the way history treats us”

        That goes for the ups as well as the downs.

  21. Mooser on November 7, 2016, 1:50 pm

    “I think that the idea that the sun sort of represents God, so that we literally walk in God’s light and have a window into the divine world, though one through which we cannot look, is rather charming.”

    That is, to me, for about 8 months out of the year, a wonderful way to think about it! But right about now I’m feeling, well, like asking why I’ve been forsaken!

    But this heliotropic theology leads us to the question: ‘Is Daylight Savings Time excessive piety or outright blasphemy’?

    And men over fifty would to well to watch their tractate.

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