We all have to break with the past

Do we, too, have a fabricated history?
Moncef Marzouki on The Invention of the Jewish People
Verso website, 31 January 2013

Moncef Marzouki (born 7 July 1945) is interim President of Tunisia. Through his career he has been a human rights activist, physician and politician. Member of the ‘Congress for the Republic’, a centre-left secular political party. On 12 December 2011, he was elected President of Tunisia by the Constituent Assembly.

After reading Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People he asks about the lessons Sand’s book might have for other nations and peoples.

 

The Invention of the Jewish People, by Shlomo Sand

Shlomo-1The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploring the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

The Invention of the Land of Israel, by Shlomo Sand

Shlomo-2What is a homeland and when does it become a national territory? Why have so many people been willing to die for such places throughout the twentieth century? What is the essence of the Promised Land?
Sand tracks the creation of the modern concept of the “Land of Israel” by nineteenth-century Evangelical Protestants and Jewish Zionists.

 

There is no doubt about it — the book The Invention of the Jewish People by the Jewish Israeli historian Shlomo Sand [..] came as a pleasant surprise to all its Arab readers, including to the author of these lines.

Moncef-Marzouki
What this historian [..] establishes very clearly is that the Zionist claim to their right to the lands of Palestine is void.
He proves, relying on a vast amount of sources – many of them Jewish – that the forceful expulsion of the Jews from Palestine after the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans is a myth…. that the preservation of a pure race during years of exile is a myth… that the claim that the ones who returned to conquer Palestine were the grandchildren of those exiled thousands of years earlier is a myth… And even the exodus from Egypt and the Kingdom of David and Salomon, all of these are legends upon legends.

But most importantly: he outlines in his book the various methods of fabrication pursued by the Zionist historians of 19th century Europe as they weaved this legend to which the Palestinians became victims, and which to this day is taught in Israeli schools as absolute and complete truth.

Who would have imagined that Ben Gurion, one of the founders of the State of Israel, would maintain up to the end of the 1920s that the Palestinians were the grandchildren of the Ancient Israelites, and that they would open their arms and hearts to their immigrating brethren.
But when the Palestinians held on to their Arabness, Ben Gurion’s views changed — and so did the conceptual paradigm, making the Palestinians into foreigners who had conquered the Land of the Fathers and the Grandfathers, and therefore must be expelled.

The question which presents itself after reading this book is whether we are facing a unique phenomenon relating solely to the Jews, or rather a general truth?
This might mean that all national histories, which are taught in high schools all across the world, are in fact fabricated from A to Z.

Written history is not necessary a faithful image of the past – if only because it is riddled with holes and is of irregular clarity – but rather it is always given authorization to explain and justify, or even create, a setting which is subjugated to an existing political agenda.

This form of authorization, which Sand explores in depth particularly in the context of Zionism, is the very procedure of rewriting the eventsyet its methodology consists of omission, supplementation, exaggeration, plain padding, and at times even intentional lies.

The historian, therefore, is the one who fabricates history. In the best case scenario, he does so with good intentions, but in the worst case, he does so with the intention to deceive, either following his own convictions or in order to please the ruling administrators which pay his living, and need that the mobs under their rule will hold a specified image of their past.

We are not trying to say that all of our glorious history is forgery as a reaction to the officially stated and popular position, claiming that all of our glorious history is truth.
All we are saying, and we are fully entitled to say so, is that due to the global recognition of the fabricated nature of national histories, and our fear that we are also governed by myths and illusions, we duly demand to scrutinize the most important segments of our history, and to do so by way of a free and responsible conversation, free of intimidation or oppression, so that we can clear this history from the doubt of falsity, or so that we can sort between the true and the false.

 

Some fields that should be re-examined with fresh, unprejudiced eyes:

islam-pre2

1. Was the Jahiliyyah, the pre-Islamic era, truly a period marked by complete intellectual and spiritual darkness, as the official version of the glorious history claims?
2. Was the appearance of Islam truly that switch flicked by history, which instantly turned the darkness in which the Arabs were living into glaring light? Or was the darkness not as murky as it was described, and the light not as bright as it was said to be…?
3. Was the age of Arab conquests indeed a utopia as it is described in the official history books? And was it really a glorious conquest or rather an invasion of the kind practiced by all the nations?

Courageous historians, who do not fear breaking the most prohibitive taboos, dare to enter forbidden areas and open them to the light of reason. …
From now on we should open our hearts and minds to Arab and Muslim historians that are devoted to our people, that acknowledge and hold on to this connection. They are the ones who understand that freeing our nation from illusions and misconceptions is by no means an undertaking which belittles our fathers and ancestors or dishonors them.

 

An inquiry may be painful, but we cannot avoid it forever. We cannot construct a healthy reality if we continue to wander blindly among illusions, which were created by deception in the worst case, or for the cheapest form of consolation in the best one. We cannot conquer the future while the past is holding us back.

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