by: Rev. Cheryl Hauer, International Development Director
However, the rewriting of history through the denial and distortion of well-established historical facts for the purpose of promoting the goals of one group over another with no commitment to honesty is not only illegitimate but very dangerous. In some circles, it is called negationism, and it is all too common in today‘s world.
Although conventional wisdom says that history is written by the victorious, a more appropriate maxim might be that the victor’s history often becomes a battleground of its own. The Armenian genocide and Stalin’s massacres are just two examples from the past century of the on-going battle faced by those who would tell the historical truth in the face of powerful propaganda machines guilty of negationism.
Holocaust denial, as a movement, began shortly after the end of WWII when surviving Nazi leaders left Germany and used their well-honed propaganda skills to defend their actions. Since then, deniers have been rampant in the West, causing some European nations to pass legislation making Holocaust denial a crime. However, the baton has been taken up by many in the Arab world who are out to prove that the Holocaust is a lie and the Jewish people themselves have no place in history.If any one event in human history stands out in terms of negationism, it is the Holocaust. Since discussions of this horrific event began in earnest in the mid-20th century, thousands have attempted to write it out of the history books, using every technique imaginable to prove that it never happened, or at least that it has been greatly exaggerated. However, the Holocaust remains the most well documented atrocity in the record of mankind with a preponderance of evidence to prove that it was, in fact, a reality. The Nazis themselves were meticulous record keepers, detailing every aspect of their attempts to annihilate the Jewish people. The Allied forces that liberated concentration and labor camps bear further witness to the truth, as do the countless testimonies of survivors, written documents, the camps themselves that still exist, hundreds of thousands of photographs and inferential evidence as well. But to the denier, the Holocaust remains a myth, the evidence fabricated and the testimony unreliable.
In recent years, Holocaust denial has found a welcome home among increasing numbers of Arab and Islamic governments whose hatred of Israel has caused many to applaud Nazi genocide. In the 1990s, it became commonplace in popular media throughout the Middle East and the Palestinian Authority (PA). This is true even in Egypt and Jordan, two Arab countries which have taken steps to normalize relations with Israel. State-sponsored television in Egypt and Saudi Arabia have shown documentaries created to incite hatred and “prove” that Jewish claims of persecution are a deliberate fabrication.
In a recent interview on Palestinian television, Abd Al-Rahman—who is the secretary general of the Palestinian Organization of Clerics and Disseminators of Islam, which was founded by Yasser Arafat and continues under PA President Mahmoud Abbas—accused the Jewish people of possessing an “attitude of superiority whose culture and religion obligate them to have contacts only among themselves.” Therefore, he surmised, Jews were never placed in ghettos by Nazis. It was their own choice to avoid contact with inferior non-Jews.
Al-Rahman, a highly respected and influential religious leader, went on to tell viewers that the Holocaust has been greatly exaggerated by the Jews. Using typical negationist tactics, he supported his statement with erroneous statistics, stating that it is a “well-known fact” that there were not 6 million Jews in all of Europe at the time of WWII.
Although Holocaust denial has traditionally been somewhat limited to the fringe movements of Western neo-Nazis and white supremacists, such is obviously not the case in the Middle East. There, the potent anti-Semitic assumptions that Holocaust denial is founded upon have made it a political weapon of choice. And by wielding that weapon freely, the anti-Israel Arab block has learned that rewriting history may well be the most effective way of ridding the world of Israel.
Conversion of non-Muslim places of worship to mosques is a long established tradition in Islam, one that began with Mohammed himself. The Ka’aba—the black-draped, cube-shaped building in Mecca—is today considered the holiest site in all of Islam and is the destination of millions of Muslims each year as they make the journey there called the hajj. Originally, however, it was a place of worship for the hundreds of gods that made up the pantheon of the ancient tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. As Mohammed forced his new religion on the residents of the region, he seized control of the Ka’aba and made it a shrine to Allah alone. That history has been rewritten several times, however, and today most Muslim scholars tell us that the Ka’aba has alwaysbeen a shrine to Allah, built originally by the first man Adam and rebuilt by Abraham and his son Ishmael.
Throughout the history of Islam, huge numbers of religious sites have been co-opted for Muslim worship including those of Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Zoroastrians. However, it is only the Jewish people whose history has been co-opted as well. Three tragic examples from recent years prove this.
The tomb of Joseph the Patriarch has been a place of worship and veneration for Jews, Christians, and Muslims for millennia. Travelers to the Holy Land as early as the 16th to 19th centuries—even Mark Twain on his famous visit in 1869—wrote about this very holy site and the pilgrims from all three faiths who acknowledged the grave as that of Joseph, son of Jacob. However, in 1999, Palestinian Authority spokesmen declared any Jewish connection to the tomb a fabrication, pronouncing it the burial location of a Muslim sheikh.
In October of 2000, Israel Defense Forces turned the site over to Palestinian control, and within 24 hours, Muslim mobs ransacked the interior of the tomb, destroyed artifacts and holy books, and set the entire compound on fire. In the ensuing days, the remaining structure was painted green and turned into a mosque. Jewish people the world over were devastated by the desecration of one of Judaism’s holiest sites. However, the most insidious damage was done when the world at large was willing to ignore thousands of years of reliable historical record, as well as extensive archaeological evidence, and allow Palestinian leadership to simply erase the Jews from the history of the site.
Success at wresting Joseph’s Tomb from Israeli control, coupled with a willingness on the part of the international community to accept an anti-Israel version of history, has been the impetus for growing historical revisionism from the Palestinian camp. A recent attempt to refute any Jewish claim to the Western Wall is another in a series of such efforts. A PA report—prepared by Al-Mutawaka Taha, who is a senior official in the PA Ministry of Information—claims that any Jewish historical or archaeological connection to the Wall is a fabrication.
A recent attempt to refute any Jewish claim to the Western Wall is another in a series of such efforts. A PA report—prepared by Al-Mutawaka Taha, who is a senior official in the PA Ministry of Information—claims that any Jewish historical or archaeological connection to the Wall is a fabrication.
The Western Wall did not become a part of Jewish religious tradition until AD 1520, the author claims, as a result of Jewish immigration from Spain. Citing the Jewish Encyclopedia and a raft of other historic references, the document claims that Jewish historians agree with his assessment that the Western Wall is an integral part of Al-Aksa Mosque (on the Temple Mount’s southern end) and Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) and therefore belongs to the Palestinian people. “This wall was never part of the so-called Temple Mount, but Muslim tolerance allowed the Jews to stand in front of it and weep over its destruction,” Taha wrote.
The Western Wall is, however, one of those sites that has substantial evidence in the historical and archaeological record to substantiate claims that it is a part of the retaining wall built to support the Jewish Temple. Countless artifacts found in the area further authenticate those claims, and even Taha’s own sources refer to the Western Wall in antiquity and before the Arab conquest of the Middle East. Pressure from the United States forced the PA to remove this so-called “scientific study” from its official Web site, but it continues to be a topic of discussion by scholars and “experts” throughout the Arab world.
Rachel’s Tomb is another site that has been venerated by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as the burial place of the matriarch for millennia. Countless historical references verify the claim, and it has been known to Arabs for generations as Qubbat Rakhil, the Dome of Rachel. Palestinian publications produced in the past two decades—including the Palestinian Lexicon issued by the Arab League and the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Encyclopedia published in 1996—refer to the site as the tomb of Rachel.
However, by 2001, it had mysteriously become the ancient burial place of Bilal ibn Rabbah, Mohammed’s Ethiopian slave. Suddenly, it was referred to as a mosque and a “Palestinian historical site” as well as a “Palestinian cultural treasure” with only a tenuous Jewish connection at best. This fabricated Palestinian history has so supplanted the truth that UNESCO, the United States, and the EU chastised Israel’s recent decision to list Rachel’s Tomb and Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah) on its official registry of historic sites.
This longstanding systematic campaign to deny Israel’s right to exist through the rewriting of history has reached epidemic proportions. PA school books teach children that Israel’s connection with the Land only began with the “occupation”; cities such as Acre, Haifa, Tiberius and Jerusalem are Palestinian cities with no Jewish history; Israel has stolen cuisine, clothing, and architecture that were Palestinian in origin; the Jewish Temple never existed; the Palestinian national heritage has been stolen by Israeli occupiers and must be reclaimed at all costs.
This fabrication of history has ramifications for Christianity as well. The characters of the Bible so familiar to Christians are now Arabs and Muslims, the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is a Palestinian “cultural treasure,” and Jesus is a Palestinian. And since its roots are found in Judaism, the destruction of Jewish history leaves Christianity without foundation as well.
According to French historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet, “In our society of image and spectacle, extermination on paper leads to extermination in reality.” As the Arab world systematically rewrites the history of Israel, the very fabric of Western society is endangered. Without the foundation of Judeo–Christian values that have supported it, Western civilization as we know it cannot stand. And without Israel, the Jewish people, and the Bible they brought to the world, those values are in grave jeopardy.
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