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How Israel seeks to erase the region's history

By       Message Jonathan Cook       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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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.

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      The chauvinism in portraying Jacob and Rachel as the only normal folk, stoicly 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.

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        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.

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            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 biological diversity. Conversions and intermarriages meant the region was a melting pot of identities and beliefs.

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            Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of 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: (more...)
             

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