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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A twitter thread with Hussein Ibish

Hussein Ibish's writings indicate that he is one of the more moderate Palestinian Arab voices. But his Twitter reaction to my piece on his article about a book on costumes in Palestine was anything but moderate:

This fool @elderofziyon complains before 20s no one called themselves “Palestinians." Who called themselves “Israelis” before 40s? Moronic!

We then had this exchange:
elderofziyon says:
@Ibishblog Apparently, you never heard of the Jewish people.

Ibishblog says:
@elderofziyon Are you deliberately obtuse? Jewish & Arab identities old, but the Israeli & Palestinian identity are both new. At same time.

elderofziyon says:
@Ibishblog You are claiming a centuries-old, specifically Palestinian culture in your article. Are you now backtracking and saying it's Arab?

Ibishblog says:
@elderofziyon You completely misread my article, which clearly says contemporary Palestinian national identity is 20th century phenomenon.
@elderofziyon In fact, I can only think you didn't really read my article carefully at all, or are incapable of reading nuances carefully.

elderofziyon says:
@Ibishblog How did I misread "an ancient and unbroken Palestinian history and culture really does exist."? Is 20th century "ancient"?

Ibishblog says:
@elderofziyon Yes, by pulling that sentence out of it's much broader, more nuanced context, you are misreading everything. Deliberately so.

elderofziyon says:
@Ibishblog Wow.Let's keep it simple:Do you claim there is an"ancient and unbroken Palestinian history and culture"? Not Arab - Palestinian.

Ibishblog says:
@elderofziyon There is an ancient & unbroken Palestinian history & culture, but like Israel's its particularist nationalism is 20th century.

elderofziyon says:
@Ibishblog You are, as you admit, putting a political patina on an artificially, arbitrarily defined South Syria culture after the fact.
Ibish is making a number of fundamental errors, and he seems to be doing it knowingly.

To claim, as he does, that "there is an ancient and unbroken Palestinian history and culture" that predates anyone self-identifying as "Palestinian" is akin to calling pre-Abrahamic culture of Ur "Jewish." Is Canaanite culture "Palestinian?" How about Philistine culture? Or Byzantine?

As I wrote, and as he he did not disprove, the idea that there was a pan-Palestinian Arab culture that somehow fits roughly along the boundaries of Mandate Palestine that were drawn by the British is simply not true. It is a retroactive, modern, political attempt to find commonality among Arabs who did not feel that commonality themselves.

It is also interesting that he did not admit that his quote of Golda Meir was wrong.

But perhaps the biggest lie Ibish is pushing is that modern Israeli nationalism is distinct from Jewish peoplehood. Of course Zionism is a relatively modern concept, as is nationalism altogether, but the Jewish people are a nation and have been identified as such - both from within and from without - for millennia. Jews have been "making aliya" for centuries. The Biblical term for the Jewish people is "the children of Israel." That's what the Koran calls them as well. Christian sources called Jews "Israelites" as recently as the early twentieth century. Ibish, like most Palestinian Arab historical revisionists, tries to make an artificial distinction between Herzlian Zionism and the proto-Zionism of Rabbi Judah HaLevi, the Shelah and the disciples of the Vilna Gaon, all who moved to Israel.

Ibish's attempt to distinguish between modern Zionism and the ancient aspiration of Jews to return to Zion and modern Zionism is, at its root, an attempt to deny Jewish history - something that he railed against in another tweet at the same time ("This negation of each other's histories and narratives is sick and disgusting!")

Denying history is indeed disgusting. Correcting a false narrative is, however, obligatory.

(h/t Noah Pollak for Azure link)