Myths Of The Middle East
By Joe Farah
© 2000

I've been quiet since Israel erupted in fighting spurred by disputes over the Temple Mount.
Until now, I haven't even bothered to say, "See, I told you so." But I can't resist any longer. I feel compelled to remind you of the column I wrote just a couple weeks before the latest uprising. Yeah, folks, I predicted it. That's OK. Hold your applause.
After all, I wish I had been wrong. More than 80 people have been killed since the current fighting in and around Jerusalem began. And for what?
If you believe what you read in most news sources, Palestinians want a homeland and Muslims want control over sites they consider holy. Simple, right?
Well, as an Arab-American journalist who has spent some time in the Middle East dodging more than my share of rocks and mortar shells, I've got to tell you that these are just phony excuses for the rioting, trouble-making and land-grabbing.
Isn't it interesting that prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, there was no serious movement for a Palestinian homeland?
"Well, Farah," you might say, "that was before the Israelis seized the West Bank and Old Jerusalem."
That's true. In the Six-Day War, Israel captured Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem. But they didn't capture these territories from Yasser Arafat. They captured them from Jordan's King Hussein. I can't help but wonder why all these Palestinians suddenly discovered their national identity after Israel won the war.
The truth is that Palestine is no more real than Never-Never Land. The first time the name was used was in 70 A.D. when the Romans committed genocide against the Jews, smashed the Temple and declared the land of Israel would be no more. From then on, the Romans promised, it would be known as Palestine. The name was derived from the Philistines, a Goliathian people conquered by the Jews centuries earlier. It was a way for the Romans to add insult to injury. They also tried to change the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina, but that had even less staying power.
Palestine has never existed -- before or since -- as an autonomous entity. It was ruled alternately by Rome, by Islamic and Christian crusaders, by the Ottoman Empire and, briefly, by the British after World War I. The British agreed to restore at least part of the land to the Jewish people as their homeland.
There is no language known as Palestinian. There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians (another recent invention), Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc. Keep in mind that the Arabs control 99.9 percent of the Middle East lands. Israel represents one-tenth of 1 percent of the landmass.
But that's too much for the Arabs. They want it all. And that is ultimately what the fighting in Israel is about today. Greed. Pride. Envy. Covetousness. No matter how many land concessions the Israelis make, it will never be enough.
What about Islam's holy sites? There are none in Jerusalem.
Shocked? You should be. I don't expect you will ever hear this brutal truth from anyone else in the international media. It's just not politically correct.
I know what you're going to say: "Farah, the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem represent Islam's third most holy sites."
Not true. In fact, the Koran says nothing about Jerusalem. It mentions Mecca hundreds of times. It mentions Medina countless times. It never mentions Jerusalem. With good reason. There is no historical evidence to suggest Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem.
So how did Jerusalem become the third holiest site of Islam? Muslims today cite a vague passage in the Koran, the seventeenth Sura, entitled "The Night Journey." It relates that in a dream or a vision Mohammed was carried by night "from the sacred temple to the temple that is most remote, whose precinct we have blessed, that we might show him our signs. ..." In the seventh century, some Muslims identified the two temples mentioned in this verse as being in Mecca and Jerusalem. And that's as close as Islam's connection with Jerusalem gets -- myth, fantasy, wishful thinking. Meanwhile, Jews can trace their roots in Jerusalem back to the days of Abraham.
The latest round of violence in Israel erupted when Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon tried to visit the Temple Mount, the foundation of the Temple built by Solomon. It is the holiest site for Jews. Sharon and his entourage were met with stones and threats. I know what it's like. I've been there. Can you imagine what it is like for Jews to be threatened, stoned and physically kept out of the holiest site in Judaism?
So what's the solution to the Middle East mayhem? Well, frankly, I don't think there is a man-made solution to the violence. But, if there is one, it needs to begin with truth. Pretending will only lead to more chaos. Treating a 5,000-year-old birthright backed by overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence equally with illegitimate claims, wishes and wants gives diplomacy and peacekeeping a bad name.
Joseph Farah is editor and chief executive officer of and writes a daily column. Get an autographed, first-edition copy of Joseph Farah's 1996 book, "This Land Is Our Land," published by St. Martin's Press.
From Hany Hanna
Hi Jeff,
Thank you for your website.
I'm getting real tired of all the pudits questioning the Palestinian right to a homeland in Palestine, especially by considering their status prior to 1967 or 1948. My mother was born in Haifa; her father ran his own pharmacy. In 1948 the Jewish terrorists (or am I suppose to call them army?) came and took everything, sending my mother's family running off as refugees carrying whatever possessions they could on their backs. My father was born in Ramallah and comes from one of the original 5 families of Ramallah all descended from one man who came there from Syria in the middle 1500's and chose that mountain to settle on. He called it Ramallah which means "Mountain of God" in Arabic. I had to laugh at an earlier article in which a Jewish man tried to claim Ramallah was a Hebrew name. Incidentally the original Ramallah families are all Catholic. A decade or so ago. a family tree was published of all the descendants from that one man to just before publication and I got a little kick from seeing my name with the rest.
Do these "pundits" believe Sharon (or should I say Hitler II?) has a right to attempt genocide because the Palestinians didn't declare a state before they really needed to. I suppose the "white man" had a right to do what they did to the native American Indians because the Indians didn't declare a state before the white man arrived.
Hany Hanna
Alton Raines
Everything Mr. Farah says is so tainted with Zionist propaganda (and let me define this because by saying this I am not being anti-semitic -- Palestinians are people, Jews are people; but the PLO is a radial racist element seeking the overthrow of the Jewish state and Zionism is a radical racist element seeking the perpetual domination and race-division of its nation state -- lets not confuse the 'people' with the 'politics'; there are no monolithic groups in Israel, all polls show this to be true.... only the ones the media invents for us!) is practically dripping. He asks, "Can you imagine what it is like for Jews to be threatened, stoned and physically kept out of the holiest site in Judaism?"
Yes, it must be awful. But...
Mr. Farah, can YOU imagine what it's like to live in a country with no rights whatsoever, under a racist regime that says you have to be a Jew to be a citizen? What's the difference between that and a nation which says you have to be white to be a citizen? Anyone who dared to suggest that today would be called a racist. Why is it ok for Jews to do it? Makes no sense.

Can YOU imagine what it's like to be automatically suspect as an 'enemy of the state', even if you're just a green grocer, a basket weaver, a child playing in the street? And with no rights, hey... they can do whatever they like to you and you have no recourse at all. Can you imagine THAT? And can you imagine what its like to be in that position when you can remember your father's, father's, father's home in that land? How long were the Jews dispersed out of the land, leaving it to others? Almost two thousand years?? And now that they're back, as of 1948, and they want to oppress the people in their land because 'some' of them are radical Muslims? What gives them such a right? Who decided it was ok for Jews to be racist pigs but everyone else gets condemned for it? Anyone who doesn't see this double standard is either lying to him/herself or is deliberately blind.
That's the Palestinian reality, right, wrong or indifferent. How they got there and who owns what land is now utterly irrelevant. Both extremist/racist factions, PLO and Zionists, have turned Israel into a nightmarish hell-hole. The whole planet is come to the brink of nuclear war because these two racist groups can't leave one another alone. Pointing back to the Bible for proofs on land ownership is moot, considering the land God gave the Hebrews (which were NOT ALL JEWS, the tribes of Israel were 12, only Judah and Benjamin are "Jews") spanned from the uppermost tip of Lebanon, fully into Southern Iraq, all of Jordan, and South to the seas! They have not returned to Israel, they have returned to a mere fraction of it, by those Biblical standards. But while they were gone, the reality is, other people made use of the land. People just as religiously devout. People deserving of human rights. When you try to argue that the Dome of the Rock is not a legitimate holy site to Islam, you've got 1,311 years of real history to try and white wash and evaporate from reality (The Dome of the Rock was built in 691 A.D. by Abed el-Malik, a Muslim ruler). It's statements like yours that make some believe in a 'Jewish conspiracy.' Yours is an example of Zionist double-speak. It's positively ridiculous! How many thousands of years does it take for something to be legitimately 'sacred' by your standards? And to suggest that there has to be something in the Koran to legitimize it as a holy site?? Why? One cannot even use the Bible to prove the precise location of the temple mount! Scholars and archeologists are still to this day in disagreement about the exact location, and some even suggest that the wailing wall is nothing more than a portion of a Herodian porch! So, that's no argument.
Your angle is nothing but racist. We could transplant all these terms and words and be discussing apartheid government in South Africa, and you'd be considered a racist with your views by 9 out 10 people. But because you're defending Israel, suddenly the world doesn't see it as a racist issue because of centuries of brainwashing to where now it is 'antisemitic' to even question anything Israel does. Well, that has to end. They need to be held accountable -- terrorist bombings or no -- just like any other nation-state. Right is right. Wrong is wrong. Jew or Arab or Gentile.
There is no doubt, the PLO seeks the annihilation of the Jewish state of Israel, and you're right, they won't be satisfied until they have everything. We've all heard Arafat's psychotic ravings. Likewise the Zionist elements of the Israeli government would like nothing better than to have their own little cozy all-Jewish state without any Arabs/Palestinians there.

You point back to Abraham for the Jew. Well, they can point back to Abraham too, by Ishmael! So what? I don't see anything in the present Jewish state making Abraham proud! He's likely turning in his grave. You know Jesus of Nazareth -- love him or hate him -- said a great truth: Hetold the Pharisees who prided themselves on their race (and thought it was the reason they were God's "chosen people") "God can raise children of Abraham from these stones. But you are of your father, the Devil." In other words, you prideful Jew, you've utterly missed the mark! He tried to make them see that God's chosen people are by faith and righteousness, not race. There's enough blame to go around now. God may have given the land to them, but they sinned against God and were dispersed in 70 AD, scattered to the four winds. This is not a black and white issue as you'd like to make it out to be. God said, "Do not oppress the foreigner in your midst." Israel is doing exactly that, and it was not terrorist bombing that caused Israel to oppress these people, the bombings -- unjustifiable though they may be -- came after decades of oppression by a racist state. This gave rise to the most radical elements like PLO.
I think both the PLO -and- the Zionists should be booted from the land and let the people form a nation-state that truly represents its amazing, ancient and diverse cultural history. But this, of course, won't happen. You stated, "Treating a 5,000-year-old birthright backed by overwhelming historical and archaeological evidence equally with illegitimate claims, wishes and wants gives diplomacy and peacekeeping a bad name." First off, if it's a birthright, then it carries with it responsibilities, and Israel has failed in those responsibilites. You can't claim the land by birthright with one breath, then so offend the God that gave that birthright with the next! As for time.... so, it takes 5,000 years to make something holy, legitimate or sacred? You've got to be out of your mind.

I am pro-Israel, for the sake of the fathers, to whom the divine oracles were given; but I am also pro-Palestinian because God's law is explicit about how to deal with the foreigner in the land, and Israel isn't obeying God. If the PLO and the Zionists were both silenced, one might hear the faint cries of the real PEOPLE who just want to live in peace and have human rights and dignity, both Jew and Arab. Isaac and Ishmael, both of Abraham, according to the prophets, will embrace one day in brotherhood and live side by side in the land in peace.

People like you are not making that prophecy a very likely reality anytime soon.

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