Reprinted from The Jerusalem Post of June 4, 1996
(May 31) THOSE who wonder how Yasser Arafat can say with a straight face that the PLO Covenant has been changed, or that Iranian-based Hamas gunmen are planning his murder with the help of Israeli right-wingers, may find special interest in a Jerusalem Times interview with Hebron Mayor Mustafa Natshe on May 10.
Focusing on the Jewish presence in Hebron and the postponement of Israel's withdrawal from the town's Arab section, reporter Ahmad Buchari asked: "The settlers announced their intention to confiscate houses in the old city of Hebron on the pretext that they had left them in 1929. What is your comment?"
Responding, presumably without snickering, Natshe said: "Their claims to title are absolutely unfounded. Settlers used to have houses which they sold to Arabs. During the British mandate, Jews often used to buy and sell houses from Arabs. In 1929, the houses in question were sold to Arabs by legal contracts."
It would insult the readers' intelligence to repeat the story of the Hebron massacre of 1929. A Jewish community living in the town from time immemorial was mercilessly slaughtered by lifelong Arab neighbors, its property confiscated by the murderers. At the time, American correspondent Vincent Sheehan described the butchery as "the worst outrage../... in recent history. The Chinese outrages in 1927 were mild in comparison."
But perhaps more striking than Natshe's reference to the rapine as a normal real estate transaction is his calling Hebron's Jewish inhabitants in 1929 "settlers." The Jewish community in this second-holiest city to Jews had existed in Hebron for an uninterrupted 1,000 years. In fact, except for periods of forced exile, the Jewish presence there goes back over 3,000 years. So the Jews in 1929 could hardly be considered part of "the Zionist invasion." Yet for Natshe they were "settlers."
Many consider such fabrications the inconsequential meanderings of the Eastern imagination. But this is condescending and insulting. The likes of Natshe know that repetition of fiction can convert it into accepted fact. PLO propaganda has succeeded in persuading respectable publications, and even a few scientists, to refer to Palestinians as an indigenous population with a 4,000-year history - the descendants of the Caananites and the Philistines. The land is invariably named Palestine, even if the reference is to an event which preceded the name by many years.
And the Jewish presence in the land is described as a short-lived occupation, one of the many invasions the natives have had to endure in the many millenia of their existence. Another myth the PLO is eager to propagate is that the Jews are treating the Palestinians the way the Nazis treated the Jews. Like the Canaanite ancestry myth, this has already become a favorite of some of the more ardent Israel bashers in the Western media. (Conveniently, they can claim that not only Palestinians but such Israelis as the late Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz and retired Prof. Yisrael Shahak agree with them.) After the Kana tragedy, for instance, a BBC anchorman in Manchester said the Shield of David on the Israeli flag should be changed to a swastika.
Neither the Oslo agreements nor Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian towns has softened such Palestinian propaganda. On the contrary. As the Zionist Organization of America reports, a recent official document published by the Palestinian Authority has compared Israel to the Nazis and the Palestinian Arabs to Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Distributed on April 22, 1996 on official Palestinian Authority letterhead, and titled "Statement Issued by the Ministry of Information on the Palestinian Prisoner's Day," it says:
"While the Israeli government is speaking about the atrocities committed against the Jews at Auschwitz, Birkenau and Dachau concentration camps, the violations against the human rights of the Jewish individual, and the tragic consequences of the massacres and collective punishment, it is directly involved these days in weaving plots and causing two major catastrophes to their neighbors."
Referring to "the inhumane legacy" of the Holocaust, it adds: "As a Palestinian people we are still experiencing the legacy of this catastrophe, being applied against them by the ancestors of those Jews who have suffered one day its consequences. Our homeland was transformed into a big concentration camp../..."
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), Arafat's deputy and designated successor, viewed as the epitome of moderation and the architect of the Oslo accords, has refused to retract a book claiming that "the Zionist movement was a partner in the slaughter of the Jews." The book is entitled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and the Zionist Movement, which claims that the Nazis really killed less than one million Jews.
On January 24, 1996, PLO official Affif Safiah declared at a Jerusalem gathering, "Israel must apologize to the Palestinian people for its conduct in the past, just as Germany apologized to the Jewish people for hunting them down in Europe." On January 4, 1996, PA Justice Minister Freih Abu-Medein told Israel Radio: "Israel did not hesitate to receive reparations from the government of Germany, but it refuses to pay reparations to the victims of the intifada."
Fostering such myths is not new for the PLO. An article in the July 1990 issue of Balsam, published by the PLO-affiliated Palestinian Red Crescent, asserted that "the lie concerning the gas chambers enabled the Jews to establish the State of Israel."
Compare that coverage to the attention received by the Palestinian refugees expelled from Libya for no other reason than that they are Palestinians, whose leader irritated Muammar Gaddafi. Stranded on the Egyptian-Libyan border, they have been non-persons in the media for nine months now. The only attention they have received has been from UNRWA medical teams, which have reported that "both the physical and the mental health of the stranded refugees have deteriorated."
Reporters who pride themselves on their liberalism don't seem to realize how racist it is to consider savagery and inhumanity newsworthy only when Arabs are not the perpetrators.