The Judaisation of History

by Inge Etzbach -
It is clear that over hundreds or thousands of years, tribes of any country will mingle with their neighbors, their conquerors and their captives. In Canaan, Hittites, Edomites, Moabites, Phoenicians and Ammonites formed the core population living in the area since prehistoric times. The area was settled from the Bronze Age at 3150 BCE by people working the land, forming city states, dealing with neighboring tribes, developing religions and leaving signs of their existence all over Palestine. They, like other tribes, did not have an alphabet and could not leave written evidence. It is assumed that the Canaanites, just as the early Jewish tribes, had an oral tradition to preserve and hand on their history, myths and stories.

Then, at the dawn of the Iron Age at about 1200 BCE a new people emerged out of the population occupying the land, a people with connections to Sumer and Egypt where they learned writing, keeping records, counting time and collecting orally transmitted stories which in fact had their very origin in Sumer, like the story of the Creation of Man, the Flood, Gilgamesch etc. These people, the Israelites, lived among other tribes in Canaan and developed their own traditions and their own religion.

What happened then is examined by Keith W. Whitelam in his book “The Invention of Ancient Israel – the silencing of Palestinian history”. (Review: 'It is a masterly, courageous work, the result of careful reading, focused reflection and the appropriate moral passion, which richly deserves wide exposure and will surely prompt significant discussion.' - Heythrop Journal). This dense book demonstrates in hundreds of examples how the European and Western and later Israeli examination of biblical resources from the nineteenth century on has deprived the Palestinians of time and space in the historical landscape of Palestine. This research had several purposes. It used the Judaic religion and the Jews’ own desire to affirm and fix Ancient Israel in Palestine by using the biblical resources as unquestioned historical proof, disregarding archeology unless it suited their purpose, bending the available evidence to conform to a vision of the Israe lite greatness in order to substantiate the desire to use this greatness in justifying the creation of the modern state of Israel.

Whitelam stressed the fact that Ancient Israel and the current Jewish State of Israel are only a part of the history of Palestine. Efforts need to be made to examine the history of the country as a whole without basing it on the Bible as an unquestioned truth.

Shlomo Sand states in his book “The Invention of the Jewish People” that in the early years of the Zionist settlement, before the rise of Palestinian nationalism, a good many people accepted the probability that the bulk of the Palestinians are actually descendents of the Jews in Judea who had converted to Islam. Israel Belkind, in 1882, believed in the close historical connection between today’s inhabitants and the country’s ancient population. The tillers of the soil and the herders of sheep remained on the land and converted, even though the priests, the scholars, the religious people might hold onto their religion and leave. Belkind believed that he and the other immigrants “were meeting a good many of our people – our flesh and blood”.

Ber Borochov, a Zionist leader, stated in his book “On the Issue of Zion and the Territory”:

“The local population in Palestine is racially more closely related to the Jews than to any other people, even among the Semitic ones. It is quite probable that the fellahin in Palestine are direct descendants of the Jewish and Canaanite rural population, with a slight admixture of Arab blood. For it is known that the Arabs, being proud conquerors, mingled very little with the populations in the countries they conquered …”

Ben-Zvi admitted that “obviously it would be mistaken to say that all the fellahin are descendants of the ancient Jews, but it can be said of most of them, or their core.”

Looking back at 3,000 years of history one cannot help but realize that the tribes of the Middle East merged, divided, assimilated, emigrated and integrated. Some of the people converted to Judaism, some converted to Christianity, but the largest conversion of the Canaanites, Jews and Christians included, converted to Islam in the 7th century. The biological roots of the country’s occupants are very similar, regardless of the religion that is being practiced. Under the skin we are all brothers.

 - Inge Etzbach was born in Germany, emigrated to the U.S., B.A. in Philosophy, M.A. in Political Science, Interfaith Minister. In 1987 she spent several months in Israel, working in a kibbutz and as a volunteer in the Israeli Army. Over the next few years, she participated in several Peace-Building Delegations, interacting with Israeli and Palestinian officials and ordinary citizens in Israel and the West Bank and participating in Mideast Workshops. Inge has written two books about Israel/Palestine including ‘Bitter Harvest in the Promised Land: Myths, History and Conflict’ (2013).


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