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Israel’s efforts to hide Palestinians from view no longer fools young American Jews

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Few books on Palestinian history become bestsellers. But one, titled A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era, managed to rocket to the top of Amazon’s charts this month.

Its author, Assaf Voll, an Israeli academic, claims to have reviewed “thousands of sources” to explain “the Palestinian people’s unique contribution to the world and to humanity.”

However, when Amazon realized all the book’s 130 pages were blank, it hurriedly excised the title from its site. But not before hundreds of customers paid nearly $10 to enjoy the puerile joke. Speaking on Israeli radio, Voll observed: “Someone needs to tell them [the Palestinians] the truth, even if it hurts.”

A History of the Palestinian People has famous antecedents. In 1969, Golda Meir, then Israel’s prime minister, declared to the world: “There were no such thing as Palestinians.”

Fifteen years later, a book called From Time Immemorial won acclaim from scholars and newspapers across the United States. It argued that the Palestinians were not the native people of Palestine, but recent economic migrants taking advantage of advances made by the Ottoman Empire.

A talented Jewish doctoral student, Norman Finkelstein, exposed the book as a fraud and it was gradually forgotten.

An Israeli official called Peters in 2015, shortly before her death, to thank her on behalf of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for all she had done for Israel.”

Both Voll and Peters were only echoing Israel’s popular historical narrative. In Israeli museums, the Palestinians’ presence is obscured with cryptic references to an “Ottoman” period. Like the Romans, Crusaders, Mamluks and British, the Ottomans are presented as temporary occupiers. Israeli politicians and media regularly speak of modern Palestinians as squatters and trespassers.

Israelis have been only too happy to make the Palestinians vanish. Who needs to feel guilty about the dispossession of hundreds of thousands of “Arabs” in 1948, or about Israel’s brutal domination of millions more for half a century in the occupied territories, if they had no right to be there in the first place?

The antidote to Voll’s empty book is a new anthology of essays, including by leading Jewish and Israeli writers, that never forgets the Palestinians’ deep roots in the land and keeps its gaze fixed on the crushing realities of Israel’s occupation.

Last week, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon said he had faced a barrage of abuse since the publication of Kingdom of Olives and Ash, designed to warn off others from following in his footsteps.

Israeli author Dorit Rabinyan, whose book on a love affair between a Palestinian man and Jewish woman was recently banned from Israeli schools, observed that visiting the West Bank was a way of “taking off the blindfold and opening our eyes to what is happening around us.”

One can understand why making the Palestinians invisible is the tactic of choice for Israel’s supporters. But a new report suggests that it would be wise for them to keep Israel in the shadows too.

The Brand Israel Group found that the more U.S. college students knew about Israel, the less they liked it. In the six years to 2016, support for Israel among the next generation of Jewish leaders dropped precipitously, by 27 percentage points.

Traditionally, Israel has nurtured bonds to overseas Jews. Over the past 20 years, the Birthright program has brought half a million young American Jews on free summer trips to Israel for an intensive course of indoctrination.

The students are supposed to leave fervent ambassadors for Israel–or better still, devotees who will immigrate to help in a demographic war against the Palestinians.

But organizers are aware that a growing number sneak off afterward into the occupied territories to discover first-hand a history their elders have kept from them. It can have a profound effect. Many get involved in protests in the occupied territories or become leaders of boycott activism against Israel on campuses back home.

Tellingly, when Israel announced earlier this year it was banning entry to foreigners who support the boycott movement, hundreds coming on this year’s Birthright signed a petition asking whether they would be allowed in.

Signs of Israel’s troubles with the next generation of American Jews are already apparent. They are at the heart of a new project near Hebron in the West Bank of non-violent direct action against the occupation. Sumud Freedom Camp–“sumud” is Arabic for steadfastness–is a project between Palestinians, Israelis and foreign Jews who refuse to turn a blind eye to Palestinian suffering. It offers a new model of joint protest.

These young Jews hope their presence will protect Palestinians trying to reclaim lands stolen by Israel. But the army has repeatedly torn down the camp. One American Jewish participant wrote in the Israeli media of how her experiences had disabused her of the image of Israeli soldiers as “superheroes who’d protect me from harm.”

Increasingly, American Jewry is becoming polarized, between an older generation whose ignorance allows them to advocate unthinkingly for Israel and a young generation whose greater knowledge has brought with it a sense of responsibility. In an ever-more globalized world, this trend is going to intensify.

Young American Jews will have to choose. Will they conspire, if only through their silence, in the erasure of the Palestinians carried out by Israel in their name? Or will they stand and fight, in the occupied territories, on campus, in their communities and, soon enough, in the corridors of power in Washington?

A version of this article first appeared in the National, Abu Dhabi, published under the headline “Can young Jews in US turn tide against Israel,” on June 26, 2017.

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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29 Responses

  1. JosephA on June 27, 2017, 10:25 pm

    Amazing, the incredible arrogance of Assaf Voll.

    • Mary T on June 28, 2017, 8:20 am

      Amazing also is the completely unconscious sociopathy of such a project.

  2. Marnie on June 28, 2017, 3:35 am

    I can’t describe without the overuse of coarse, crude language, the disgust I have for Assaf Voll, so I’m going to be brief. Arrogance has already been used to describe him. I would like to add the lack of respect on display really breaks my heart. How far will his cruel intentions get him? Kharma is a MF and the world outside the zionist bubble is not as stupid as the zionists themselves.

    • gamal on June 28, 2017, 4:54 pm

      “Kharma is a MF”

      there is beautiful practise associated with suffering (which should never be wasted), in Buddhism that uses the refrain

      “This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning full circle upon us for wrongs we have done”

      “8) All of our sufferings derive from our habits
      Of selfish delusions we heed and act out
      As all of us share in this tragic misfortune,
      Which stems from our narrow and self-centred ways,
      We must take on all our sufferings and the miseries of others
      And smother our wishes of selfish concern.

      (11) Depressed and forlorn, when we feel mental anguish,
      This is the wheel of sharp weapons returning
      Full circle upon us from wrongs we have done.
      Till now we have deeply disturbed the minds of others;
      Hereafter let’s take on this suffering ourselves.

      (67) We talk about theories and the most advanced teachings,
      Yet our everyday conduct is worse than a dog’s.
      We are learned, intelligent, versed in great knowledge,
      Yet cast to the Wind wisdom’s ethical base.
      Trample him, trample him, dance on the head
      Of this treacherous concept of selfish concern,
      Tear out the heart of this self-centred butcher
      Who slaughters our chance to gain final release.”

      it turns out a dude in the medieval Indian jungle has me down to tee (its a practise not an argument or neurosis)

      • Marnie on June 29, 2017, 5:27 am


  3. MHughes976 on June 28, 2017, 9:58 am

    The Ottoman Empire existed for a few centuries, was recognised as the de facto government of wide territories and had some time to promote economic growth, which possibly drew in immigrants whose legitimacy as residents no one questioned. Even the Balfour Declaration recognised, at least obliquely. that the people there had a right to be there. Maybe they did not refer to themselves as Palestinians, though that name could hardly be avoided totally since ‘Palestine’ is such an ancient name for the area, especially when the O Empire fell and its other former provinces went different political ways. Even were it true that the majority of the pre-1900 ancestry of the current Palestinians was totally non-Palestinian (and I don’t think even Peters went that far) what difference to their rights would it make? Why should they be considered to have disappeared – odious phrase, isn’t it? – from here and now because their ancestors appeared elsewhere (if they did) way back then?

  4. lonely rico on June 28, 2017, 11:04 am

    An Israeli official called Peters in 2015, shortly before her death, to thank her on behalf of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “for all she had done for Israel.”

    I think we all should be thankful to Peters! Her spurious history provoked Norman Finkelstein, who subsequently devoted his career to uncovering the lies and crimes of Zionism (Image and Reality, Beyond Chutzpah … etc.)
    Finkelstein denounced the falsehoods of Zionism’s fabricated history, at a time when very few others had the courage to stand up to the powerful interests who wished to hide the cruel criminality of Israel. The Zionists and their apologists managed to ruin his career, but they didn’t succeed in silencing his voice, a voice which changed our understanding of the history of Palestine.

    Voll’s pitiful stunt will perhaps amuse some of his friends (does this arrogant fool have any friends?), but will more importantly confirm his insignificance.

    • genesto on June 28, 2017, 2:08 pm

      Similarly, we should thank Mr. Voll for demonstrating, in no uncertain terms, the Zionists’ callous disregard for the humanity of the Palestinian people. If I were someone at the beginning of my research on the Palestinians and their history vis a vis the birth of the state of Israel, I would see Mr. Voll’s ‘joke’ as mean-spirited and contemptible.

      Good work, Assaf!

    • Misterioso on June 28, 2017, 2:20 pm

      Professor Porath, one of Israel’s leading demographic historians, called Peters’ book a “forgery… [that] was almost universally dismissed [in Israel] as sheer rubbish except maybe as a propaganda weapon.”(New York Times, Nov.28, 1985)

      Rabbi Arthur Herzberg, vice-president of the World Jewish Congress, agreed: “I think that she’s cooked the statistics…. The scholarship is phony and tendentious. I do not believe that she has read the Arabic sources that she quotes.”(ibid)

      To again quote Professor Porath: “The precise demographic history of modern Palestine cannot be summed up briefly, but its main features are clear enough and they are very different from the fanciful description Mrs. Peters gives…. [S]he has apparently searched through documents for any statement to the effect that Arabs entered Palestine. But even if we put together all the cases she cites, one cannot escape the conclusion that most of the growth of the Palestinian Arab community resulted from a process of natural increase.” (“Mrs. Peters’ Palestine” New York Review of Books, 16 January 1986.)

  5. James Canning on June 28, 2017, 1:46 pm

    Palestine was part of the Ottoman Empire a century ago. Should fanatical Zionists regard them as Turks?

    A number of rich and powerful American Jews foster the nonsensical notion the Palestinians do not exist.

    • YoniFalic on June 28, 2017, 2:35 pm

      The Ottoman Empire ruled Palestine for 400 years and certainly recognized the existence of Palestine inhabited by Palestinians even if Palestine did not correspond to single or specific administrative district.

      • jack77 on July 2, 2017, 8:09 am

        Palestine was inhabited by by both Arabs and Jews . The Jews that lived there had a newspaper called the Palestinian Times that was written in HEBREW. So the ” Palestinians” that inhabited Palestine where both Arab and Jew. What matters more is who is entitled to self determination on the territory . The world at the Treaty of Versalilles decided that it was the Jews, for various reasons. Read the text .

  6. MHughes976 on June 28, 2017, 5:20 pm

    On the question of American vs Israeli Jewish opinion there’s an article in the Times of Is. for June 28 about Netanyahu and Israeli recognition of the non-Orthodox versions of Judaism to which most American Jews belong. A significant division, it would seem.

  7. Stephen Shenfield on June 28, 2017, 5:30 pm

    I met a man upon the stair
    I met a man who wasn’t there
    I met him there again today
    I wish, I wish he’d go away

  8. Eva Smagacz on June 28, 2017, 5:34 pm


    I agree wholeheartedly with your remarks, even if it may not be clearly visible. If you go back through my recent comments you may get a glimpse or two of the insight into difficulties.
    Fighting for truth to come out is a game of cat and mouse, with stronger party usually winning.
    One of the ways to overcome that difficulty is to move “theatre of war” to a different area.

    This is why I am using my full name, and I am in a phonebook. I believe in Palestinian cause, and am astounded how supporters of Israel can be found exerting influence, even in places you least expect them. I hope that scientist in you will understand what I mean.

    • Keith on June 29, 2017, 12:59 am

      EVA SMAGACZ- “I agree wholeheartedly with your remarks….”

      Interesting how Yoni says that which some of us dare not speak.

      • Eva Smagacz on June 29, 2017, 2:55 pm

        Some of us write, and like YoniFanic, spent time creating heartfelt and well reasoned arguments but our ink turns to water on occasion. (I know this concept was better known in soviet Russia).
        Yoni should read up on Jim Boyling and Bob Lambert, which would point him in a right direction in his quest for understanding of very recent history that has puzzled him.

      • Mooser on June 29, 2017, 3:36 pm

        “Interesting how Yoni says that which some of us dare not speak.”

        Maybe his personal experience gives him a standing which few of us have.

      • Keith on June 29, 2017, 5:13 pm

        MOOSER- “Maybe his personal experience gives him a standing which few of us have.”

        My comment was meant to indicate support for Yoni’s efforts to delve into real history rather than myth-history. If his personnel experience allows him to be more candid than some of us, that is all to the good. I look forward to more of his real historical perspective. We have had more than enough of Zionist regurgitated BS on Mondoweiss, the 1967 war being a recent example.

  9. on June 29, 2017, 1:10 pm

    wow – nothing shocks me any more.

    Organizing barbecues outside the prison that houses Palestinian hunger strikers

    Harvesting organs of dead Palestinians

    Using Gaza as a testing ground for military weaponry to promote weapons sales

    Using white phosphorous on civilian populations

    Bombing schools and UN compounds

    Detaining and torturing Palestinian children often without charge

    Denying Palestinians medical care

    Banning marriages between Palestinians and Jews

    But the Palestinians are not he only ones suffering at the hands of Zionist criminals

    non-whites face rampant racism

    Holocaust survivors left to languish in poverty

    Christians face Zionist hatred

    Clearly Israel should be treated as a pariah state – how much longer can they continue down this path before they simply implode

  10. jack77 on July 2, 2017, 7:51 am

    Some of the people that support the Palestinian Arab cause believe we should have a world that is 100 % fair . They believe in utopia, a perfect world. So instead of looking at the big picture , they focus on the small inconsistencies to their utopian world view. Other Palestinian supporters simply dislike Jews, which is a ancient hatred 2000 years strong , with various ‘ justifications’ for their hatred cited thru the years. Todays justification is the immorality of the state of Israel in its treatment of the Arabs of the former Palestine Mandate . After WW1 the nations of the world got together in the League of Nations ( which was the UN of the time ), and unanimously agreed that Palestine was do be allocated to the Jews to re build the state they had lost thousands of years earlier , and which the Jewish people NEVER totally abandonded their claim to . There was no Arab nation or separate , distinct people that had taken up and built a new nation in that territory . The Arabs are all one people , and as even they call themselves the ” Arab nation ” . That group of people was allocated multiple states thru out the middle east for their self determination . The Jews were allocate one . What was decided then became international law. But as has happened before thru history , the Jewish people were again betrayed , and the world began to change their mind on what was decided, which already became International law.

    Behind some of this is what is called by psycologists transference of guilt . After 2000 years of persecuting , demeaning , expelling, disenfranchising, libeling , and finally slaughtering Jews, the world has guilt . In order to silence that guilt people need to prove to themselves that ‘ you see, the Jews are bad and immoral , and deserved it all ‘. But the argument is fake of course because the hatred existed long before Israel was created in 1948.

    • Mooser on July 2, 2017, 11:51 am

      “After 2000 years of persecuting , demeaning , expelling, disenfranchising, libeling , and finally slaughtering Jews”

      We got it bad and that ain’t good. Nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen. We oughta sue.

      Oh, BTW, how where things supposed to go for us Jews? What was supposed to happen to us?

    • gamal on July 2, 2017, 11:55 am

      “Some of the people that support the Palestinian Arab cause believe we should have a world that is 100 % fair”

      it’s going to be the null hypothesis

      “They believe in utopia, a perfect world.”

      told you

      oh….bless, you are a special needs propagandist,

      “In order to silence that guilt people”

      do as you are somewhat bumblingly trying to do, you look fucking ridiculous, the west attacks us then any idiot thinks they can talk past us, what an utter fool.

      and you know something Jack thats no way to care for your mind, you wash your body don’t you when its dirty, there are ways to wash the mind, it stings a bit, otherwise it wouldn’t be purification.

      Vajrasattva is your friend and washes us with “moonlight”, he always has space for another client, to trim down and clean up.

    • Mooser on July 2, 2017, 4:05 pm

      “Some of the people that support the Palestinian Arab cause believe we should have a world that is 100 % fair . They believe in utopia, a perfect world.. So instead of looking at the big picture , they focus on the small inconsistencies to their utopian world view.”

      Yeah, like all those Utopian people who complain about the Holocaust of the Jews. They should let go of their Utopian world-view and look at the big picture. The world isn’t 100% fair.

    • Keith on July 3, 2017, 10:09 am

      JACK77- “After 2000 years of persecuting , demeaning , expelling, disenfranchising, libeling , and finally slaughtering Jews….”

      Wow! All of that abuse and you guys still managed to come out on top! What a group! What stick-to-it-ive-ness! Jeez, think of how much better off you would be if you benefited from Black privilege. Are you completely sure of your historical accuracy?

      • wondering jew on July 3, 2017, 5:11 pm

        Anti Jewish propagandist Keith has a low opinion of the readers of the comments section of mw, unable to chew gum and walk at the same time.

        There are different types of ethnic relations aside from the role of proletariat taken up by blacks and people of color in North America. There is also the phenomenon of middleman minority, which describes the relations of Jews in previous times in various societies, plus a few other middleman minority historical phenomena.

        I believe that the discerning reader will be willing to open their minds up to the possibility of various tensions existing between ethnic groups not based upon the monochromatic viewpoint expressed by you.

        Between roughly the year 1000 until the year 1945, the most widespread ethnic tension in europe was Christian versus Jew. It did not resemble the tension between whites and blacks in america, but it was very deep in the culture and very widespread. because the oppressed Jews of the czarist empire moved en masse to america as a result of oppression, focusing on the particularly phenomenon of late 19th century Jew hatred is a natural outcome for those whose presence in america is due to a hatred movement in europe that resulted in emigration to america and our very identity as americans resulted from the fact that we were jews and oppressed.

        although the Shoah was not unique in history, it was rather intense and this aspect of Jewish history is naturally part of any conscious jew’s concept of history. most jews wish to shed their jewishness, for a variety of reasons, and this complicates any effort to come to terms with the shoah.

        all we need is some jew haters to help us gain clarity that jews are not hated, by talking out of both sides of their mouths: you’re not hated, yet your victim mentality means that you do deserve to be hated.

      • Keith on July 3, 2017, 7:26 pm

        YONAH FREDMAN- “Anti Jewish propagandist Keith has a low opinion of the readers of the comments section of mw, unable to chew gum and walk at the same time.”

        No, I have a low opinion of you which is why I rarely comment on your comments unless they are directed to me. And typically you lead off with an ad hominem insult. Further, you are either unable or unwilling to deal with my sarcastic response to Jack77. His typical Zionist rant about 2000 years of nothing but misery is inconsistent with current Jewish wealth and power. That is the issue, not the role of Blacks and people of color in North America. That is why I asked if he was sure of his historical accuracy. I prefer to ridicule ridiculous comments.

        YONAH FREDMAN- “Between roughly the year 1000 until the year 1945, the most widespread ethnic tension in europe was Christian versus Jew.”

        Perhaps one of the most simplistic comments ever made on Mondoweiss. For starters, prior to about 200 years ago in Western Europe and later in Eastern Europe, relations between Jews and Gentiles took place within a premodern agrarian political economy where kings and nobles ruled by a religious based divine right. The Jews filled a specific role described by Yuri Slezkine as service nomads. According to Israel Shahak, they mediated the oppression of the peasants on behalf of the nobility and crown. At this point in time, “Jews” were defined as belonging to the Judaic religion. There was no separation of church and state.

        The industrial revolution and modernization changed all of that. The political economy of the West was changed in a revolutionary fashion as capitalism and businessmen took control of society from the nobility and crown. The Christian peasants now moved into other occupations and competed with Jews for the fruits of industrialism. Jews, in turn, were liberated from the strict rabbinical control of Classical Judaism and splintered into Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews along with secular Jews, a new phenomenon made possible by modernization. The times were turbulent and relationships unsettled. The changes to the political economy were sufficiently profound that arguing for some linear relationship over the last 1000 years is ridiculous. Yet, this unnatural and preposterous continuity is a pillar of Zionist ideology and myth-history.

        As far as “ethnic tensions” between Jews and Gentiles go, they pale in comparison to the nationalistic wars and rivalries of the various European nation states. I have repeatedly mentioned the 30 years war where one-third of the population of Prussia died. Europe during most of its history was a violent place. Apparently, what was occurring in the surrounding Gentile communities is of little concern to you. You are extremely Judeocentric and evaluate everything from that perspective. And you seem particularly obsessed with the fate of the Jews in Czarist Russia. Yoni Falic has responded to some of your misinformation regarding the Jews in the Pale of Settlement. But you take a certain perverse comfort in your perceived status as victim based upon your myopic perspective on anti-Semitism in Czarist Russia. And anyone who disputes your myth-history is accused of being anti-Jewish, their views misrepresented and words put in their mouth.

      • Mooser on July 3, 2017, 8:56 pm

        “all we need is some jew haters to help us gain clarity that jews are not hated,”

        “Yonah”, get help. You’ve been up for so long it looks like down to you.

      • Mooser on July 3, 2017, 8:58 pm

        Well, “Keith”, there’s your answer:

        No, we Jews didn’t even get Black Privilege!

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