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This article deals with the actual or alleged denial of statements posited as facts by either Israelis or Palestinians. Most instances of history denial within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict concern the attempt of elements from both sides to deny the other any historical claim to the land of Israel/Palestine.

Israeli denial of Palestinian history

Nakba denial

Al-Nakba or "the Catastrophe" is the Arabic term to describe the displacement[1] or ethnic cleansing[2] of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Palestine war; Nakba denial refers to the denial of the reality of this event by Jewish sources.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, what happened to Palestinian civilians during the war was "largely self inflicted."[3] Ghada Karmi writes that the Israeli version of history is that the "Palestinians left voluntarily or under orders from their leaders and that Israelis had no responsibility, material or moral, for their plight." She also finds a form of denial among Israelis that Palestinians bear the blame for the Nakba by not accepting the UN's proposed partition of Palestine into separate ethnic states.[4] Acknowledgment of the Nakba by Israel would force it to deal with the issue of 4 million Palestinian refugees who are banned from returning to their ancestral land under Israeli law and have not received any form of restitution from the state.

Ilan Pappe has claimed that the Israeli government under Ariel Sharon have attempted to remove references to the Nakba from Israeli textbooks:

"The first reaction has been from the Israeli political establishment, with the Sharon government, through its minister of education, beginning the systematic removal of any textbook or school syllabus that refers to the Nakba, even marginally. Similar instructions have been given to the public broadcasting authorities. The second reaction has been even more disturbing and has encompassed wider sections of the public. Although a very considerable number of Israeli politicians, journalists and academics have ceased to deny what happened in 1948, they have nonetheless also been willing to justify it publicly, not only in retrospect but also as a prescription for the future. The idea of "transfer" has entered Israeli political discourse openly for the first time, gaining legitimacy as the best means of dealing with the Palestinian 'problem.'"[1]
In 2009, Israel banned the use of the word "Nakba" in Israeli Arab schools and textbooks; the word is not part of the curriculum in Jewish Israeli schools. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu justified the ban by saying that the term was "propaganda against Israel".[5] Arab MP Hanna Sweid has described the change in curriculum as "Nakba denial."[6]

The existence of Palestinians as a people

In an interview conducted by The Sunday Times on June 15, 1969, Golda Meir was party to the following exchange:[7]

Q: Do you think the emergence of the Palestinian fighting forces, the Fedayeen, is an important new factor in the Middle East?

A: Important, no. A new factor, yes. There was no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the first world war and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country from them. They did not exist.

James L. Gelvin says that Meir was neither denying indigenous Palestinian people nor the existence of the Palestinian nation. Rather, her remarks are directed at the Fedayeen's causing of the nation to exist.[7] Gelvin states that while Meir's “assertion that a Palestinian nation did not exist until after 1967 war is absurd, the sketch she provides of the historical nationalism that engendered that nation—and her implicit understanding of the unpredictable and conditional evolution of nationalism in general—is, in the main, accurate.”[7]

Palestinian denial of Jewish history

Claims that Jews never inhabited Biblical sites

Assertions that Jews never inhabited the land of Israel in ancient times and therefore have no claim to live in the land today and denial of the authenticity of Jewish claims to ancient holy sites - such as the Temple Mount and the Cave of Machpelah- appear to be on the increase. In his 2007 book, The Fight for Jerusalem: Radical Islam, the West, and the Future of the Holy City, Ambassador Dore Gold calls such claims "Temple Denial". Israeli intellectual David Hazony has described the phenomenon as "a campaign of intellectual erasure [by Palestinian leaders, writers, and scholars] ... aimed at undermining the Jewish claim to any part of the land" and compared the phenomenon to Holocaust denial.[8]

Palestinian officials have often stated that sites of particular significance to the Palestinians (e.g. the Old City of Jerusalem) were never inhabited by Jews, or that sites of particular religious significance to both sides (e.g. the Temple Mount/Noble Sanctuary) in fact were somewhere else. Such statements can be interpreted as politically motivated attempts to resolve the debate over land in one side's favor by denying the historic existence of the other side. This shares some elements with, but is not to be confused with, Kamal Salibi's wider fringe theory that pre-exilic Jews in fact lived in Arabia.

In a December 25, 1996 interview with the IMRA news agency, Walid M. Awad, Director of Foreign Publications for the PLO's Palestine Ministry of Information, asserted:

Jerusalem is not a Jewish city, despite the biblical myth implanted in some minds...There is no tangible evidence of Jewish existence from the so-called 'Temple Mount Era'...The location of the Temple Mount is in might be in Jericho or somewhere else.[9][10]

On December 10, 1997, the Palestine Ministry of Information claimed that a century's worth of archaeological excavations in the Old City of "Jerusalem" had found "Umayyad Islamic palaces, Roman ruins, Armenian ruins and others, but nothing Jewish." The Ministry then claimed that "there is no tangible evidence of any Jewish traces / remains in the old city of Jerusalem and its immediate vicinity."[11][12][13]

At the 2000 Camp David Summit, several Palestinian negotiators denied the existence of King Solomon's Temple. Yasser Arafat told Bill Clinton that the Temple had been located in Nablus rather than in Jerusalem.[2] On August 12, 2000, Palestinian Authority newspaper Al-Hayat Al-Jadida reported Arafat as telling Clinton: "I will not allow it to be written of me that I confirmed the existence of the so-called temple underneath the mountain [the Temple Mount]."[14]

On September 25 2000, Le Monde quoted Yasser Abed Rabbo, P.A. Minister of Cabinet Affairs, as denying that the Temple ever existed:

The Israelis say that beneath the noble sanctuary (the Esplanade of the Mosques) lies their temple. … Looking at the situation from an archaeological standpoint, I am sure there is no temple. They have dug tunnel after tunnel with no result.

Statements such as these are broadcast on official Palestinian media as well. For example, on an August 2, 2004 broadcast on P.A. Television, Dr. Jarir Al-Qidwah, head of the PA Public Library and Yasser Arafat's advisor on Education stated:

Solomon’s Temple, I believe, was built by the Canaanites who were the neighbors of the Israelis, the Israelites... I want to state several words clearly: the Bible became an archival document, not representing what the Israelis and the first Jews were, but what they thought they were, what they imagined. The Temple is the fruit of their imagination. In any case, when our nation or our Canaanite forefathers came to Palestine, they built the Temple… a temple in Jerusalem... The issue of the temple is a Zionist innovation. No one said that the temple that was built in Jerusalem, neither the Canaanite nor Roman, no one said that it was in the place of the [Islamic] Al Haram.

On that same broadcast, Dr. Issam Sissalem, Senior Historian and Educational TV host, former head of the History Department of PA University, stated:

They claimed that Solomon, may he rest in peace, built the Temple. Does the land testify to this? Solomon was a prophet and we see him as a Muslim and part of our [Islamic] heritage… There is no historical text that proves the existence [of the temple] or that it has a real history other than the Bible, and the Bible as we have previously mentioned… was written based on ancient legends."[15][16]

Palestinian Authority school books have been criticized for echoing this theme. When textbooks used in the 1990s discussed sites of religious interest, Muslim as well as Christian sites were included but not Jewish sites. Even the Jews' connection to the remnant of their holiest site, the Western Wall of the Temple, was denied:

"The Jews claim that this is one of the places belonging to them and call it "The Western Wall", but this is not so."[17]

Claims that Jews have no connection to the land of Israel

In addition to claiming that Jews never inhabited specific Biblical sites, Palestinians have claimed that Jews have no connection at all with the land of Israel. This claim was enshrined in the Palestinian Charter in 1964. Article 18 states:

The claims of historic and spiritual ties, ties between Jews and Palestine are not in agreement with the facts of history or with the true basis of sound statehood.

Claims that Jews lack genetic links to the ancient Israelites or Hebrews, links that some Palestinian activists assert that Palestinians do possess, are widespread enough to have received formal, academic attention.

Claims that modern Jews are Khazars, and not ancient Israelites are also common. On an August 2, 2004 broadcast on PA TV, Dr. Issam Sissalem, Senior Historian and Educational TV host, and former head of the History Department of PA University stated:

I want to point out that we should not focus much on what is called the [Biblical] Hebrew tribes, who are in fact Bedouin – Arab tribes. There is no connection between them and these Khazar Jews [of Israel today]. Those [Hebrew - Arab] tribes were erased and ceased to exist and no traces were left of them……About the Jews of Khazar... they had a state [in the Kavkaz (Caucasia)] and it was destroyed by the Vladimir Family and the Mongolian attack, that invaded them in the 13th century. They dispersed in seclusion in ghettos, in what is called Russia, Ukraine, and Poland, and came to us [to Israel] in the 19th century, with false Zionist claims based on legends.
In the same broadcast, Dr. Jarir Al-Qidwah, head of the PA Public Library and Arafat's advisor on Education made similar claims:
These Jews, [after being conquered by Rome] were dispersed ... among many nations. The last, after many hundreds of years, the Khazar Jews, [are the ones] who live in Palestine [ie, Israel] today. When these people started to write the Bible they found that it was written in a [foreign] language... when they reached Palestine they had no knowledge or culture.[15][16]

The Executive Summary of the June, 2004 Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) report on the Palestinian curriculum (mentioned above) notes on this topic:[3]

The new textbooks still reflect an inadequate and imbalanced representation of the Jewish historical connection to the Greater Middle East. The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing. This lack of reference is perceived as tantamount to a denial of such a connection, although no direct evidence is found for such a denial.

It also points out that passages in various textbooks

reflect a continuous Arab presence in the region (some references date that presence back to the ancient Canaanites and Jebusites) even though this claim has considerable contention amongst historians contesting this as historical fact. Other racial, ethnic and religious groups that inhabited and/or had control over the region are not dealt with explicitly in many of the textbooks; especially noted is the lack of reference to Jewish presence.

Professor Joseph Massad of Columbia University has asserted, “The claim made by Zionists…that late nineteenth-century European Jews are direct descendents of ancient Palestinian Hebrews is what is preposterous here…. That they somehow descend from first-century Hebrews, despite the fact that they look like other Europeans, that they speak European languages is what is absurd.”[18] According to Schlomo Sand, David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Ben Zvi, president of Israel, both accepted that the Jews were not exiled from Palestine by the Romans in AD 70, and consequently that the peasants of Palestine are the descendants of the inhabitants of ancient Judea.[19]

The existence of Jews as a people

Shlomo Zand, an Israeli academic and author of When and How Was the Jewish People Invented? argues that there never was a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion, and the construction of the idea of a Jewish nation was largely a way to justify the establishment of the State of Israel.[20] This echoes the claim in the Palestinian Charter in 1964. Article 18 states:

Judaism because it is a divine religion is not a nationality with independent existence. Furthermore the Jews are not one people with an independent personality because they are citizens of the countries to which they belong.

Similarly, in an August 2, 2004 broadcast on PA TV, Dr. Jarir Al-Qidwah, head of the PA Public Library and Arafat's advisor on Education claimed "The Jews are a religion and not a race."[15][16]

The Executive Summary of the June, 2004 Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) report on the Palestinian curriculum (mentioned above) notes on this topic:[4]

Generally speaking, when “Jews” are mentioned, references to them are mostly made in the context of talking about “the People of the Book,” and not to “a Jewish nation.”

Holocaust denial

The Palestinian Authority, a number of Palestinian groups, and senior Palestinian officials have engaged in various aspects of Holocaust denial.[21] The three most common positions on the historicity of the Holocaust are: "it never happened; it was greatly exaggerated; the Jews deserved it anyway. On the last point, some more enterprising writers add a rebuke to Hitler for not having finished the job."[22] In 1982, Mahmoud Abbas, later to become President of the Palestinian Authority wrote his doctoral thesis which later became a book, The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism. In the book, Abbas raised doubts that gas chambers were used for extermination of Jews, and suggested that the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust was "less than a million", claiming secret ties between the Nazis and the Zionist movement. He also claimed that the Holocaust was a joint Zionist-Nazi plot, writing "The Zionist movement led a broad campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule, in order to arouse the government's hatred of them, to fuel vengeance against them, and to expand the mass extermination."[5]

By the Palestinian Authority

Other Palestinians have also stated that Jews concocted stories about persecution in the Holocaust, or inflated the numbers of dead. On a P.A. cultural affairs television program in 1997, Hassan al-Agha, a professor at the Islamic University in Gaza City, claimed:

The Jews view it [the Holocaust] as a profitable activity so they inflate the number of victims all the time. In another ten years, I do not know what number they will reach....[23][24]

In 1998, Seif Ali Al-Jarwan, writing in the Palestinian newspaper Al Hayat Al-Jadeeda stated:

They concocted horrible stories of gas chambers which Hitler, they claimed, used to burn them alive. The press overflowed with pictures of Jews being gunned down ... or being pushed into gas chambers.... The truth is that such persecution was a malicious fabrication by the Jews.[25][26]

In March 2000, Sheikh Ikrima Sabri, the Mufti of Jerusalem, The New York Times quoted him as saying, "[W]e believe the number of 6 million is exaggerated .... The Jews are using this issue, in many ways, also to blackmail the Germans financially. ... The Holocaust is protecting Israel."[27] On a November 29, 2000, P.A. television broadcast Dr. Issam Sissalem, a history lecturer at the Islamic University Gaza stated:

Lies surfaced about Jews being murdered here and there, and the Holocaust. And, of course, they are all lies and unfounded claims. No Chelmno, no Dachau, no Auschwitz! [They] were disinfection sites... They began to publicize in their propaganda that they were persecuted, murdered and exterminated... Committees acted here and there to establish this entity [Israel-Ed.], this foreign entity, implanted as a cancer in our country, where our fathers lived, where we live, and where our children after us will live. They always portrayed themselves as victims, and they made a Center for Heroism and Holocaust. Whose heroism? Whose Holocaust? Heroism is our nation's, the holocaust was against our people... We were the victims, but we shall not remain victims forever...[6]

On April 13, 2001, Hiri Manzour, writing in the official P.A. daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida said:

A recently published book by an American researcher, discusses the holocaust. Employing scientific and chemical evidence, it proves that the figure of six million Jews cremated in the Nazi Auschwitz camps is a lie for propaganda, as the most spacious of the vaults in the camp could not have held even one percent of that number.[7]

A sermon broadcast on P.A. television on September 21, 2001, stated:

One of the Jews' evil deeds is what has come to be called 'the Holocaust,' that is, the slaughter of the Jews by Nazism. However, revisionist [historians] have proven that this crime, carried out against some of the Jews, was planned by the Jews' leaders, and was part of their policy...These are the Jews against whom we fight, oh beloved of Allah.[8]

By Hamas

Hamas has been equally explicit in its Holocaust Denial. In reaction to the Stockholm conference on the Jewish Holocaust, held in late January 2000, Hamas issued a press release which it published on its official website, containing the following statements from a senior leader:

This conference bears a clear Zionist goal, aimed at forging history by hiding the truth about the so-called Holocaust, which is an alleged and invented story with no basis. . . . The invention of these grand illusions of an alleged crime that never occurred, ignoring the millions of dead European victims of Nazism during the war, clearly reveals the racist Zionist face, which believes in the superiority of the Jewish race over the rest of the nations.
Not only does this attempt to focus on an alleged story ignore the suffering of our people and disregard the massacres committed by the Zionists against them, such as Dir Yasin, Kafr Qasem, Tanturah, Jerusalem, Hebron and Sabra and Shatila?not to mention the massacres committed by the enemy against the people of our nation, such as in Bahr al-Baqr and Qana, the killing of thousands of Egyptian captives, and so on?but the story itself has no proof. . . . The Zionist entity is using psychological and ideological terrorism through the Stockholm conference and the alleged Nazi Holocaust. . . . </br> We call the free scholars of the world and its vital forces to expose the crimes of global Zionism against our people, our nation, and against all human civilization, and to refute them and not to fear the hostility of the Jews and their ideological terrorism or their influence through which they shut mouths and prevent objective, unbiased scholars from revealing the Zionist claims as lies. By these methods, the Jews in the world flout scientific methods of research whenever that research contradicts their racist interests.[28]
In August, 2003, senior Hamas official Dr Abd Al-Aziz Al-Rantisi wrote in the Hamas newspaper Al-Risala
It is no longer a secret that the Zionists were behind the Nazis’ murder of many Jews, and agreed to it, with the aim of intimidating them and forcing them to immigrate to Palestine.[29]
In August 2009, Hamas refused to allow Palestinian children to learn about the Holocaust, which it called "a lie invented by the Zionists" and referred to Holocaust education as a "war crime."[30]

See also


  1. al-Mughrabi, Nidal. "Gaza cartoon commemorates Palestinian 'Nakba.'" 11 May 2008. 30 August 2009.
  2. Ilan Pappe (2006); The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine; Oneworld Publications[page needed]
  3. No to 'Nakba' in the Textbooks
  4. Al-Ahram Weekly | Opinion | Denial and the future of peace
  5. "Israel bans "catastrophe" term from Arab schools". Reuters. 2009-07-22. 
  6. Black, Ian. [ " 1948 no catastrophe says Israel, as term nakba banned from Arab children's textbooks."] The Guardian. 22 July 2009. 25 July 2009.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Gelvin, James L. (2005). "From Nationalism in Palestine to Palestinan Nationalism" (GoogleBooks). The Israel-Palestine conflict: one hundred years of war. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. pp. 92–93. LCCN 2005-12022. ISBN 0521852897. OCLC 59879560. Retrieved 2007-05-30. 
  8. Hazony, David. "Temple Denial In the Holy City", The New York Sun, March 7, 2007.
  9. "Arafat's Culture of Hatred and Violence"PDF (1.61 MiB), Zionist Organization of America, p. 26.
  10. Raab, David. "The Beleaguered Christians Of The Palestinian-Controlled Areas", Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jerusalem Viewpoints #490, 1-15 January 2003.
  11. Gold, Dore. "The Situation in the Middle East: Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination", UNISPAL document A/52/762, 9 January 1998.
  12. Klein, Morton. "Another Outrageous Claim By Arafat: Ancient Jewish Temple Was In Nablus, Not Jerusalem", Zionist Organization of America, May 21, 2002.
  13. Ben-David, Lenny. "Denial of Religious Rights by the Palestinian Authority", Honest Reporting, 11 November 2002.
  14. "East Jerusalem and the Holy Places at the Camp David Summit", Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series - No. 121, August 28, 2000.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Marcus, Itamar. "PA Historians: Israel's Biblical History is Actually Arab Muslim History", Palestinian Media Watch, August 8, 2004.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 "PA Historians: Israel´s Biblical History is Actually Arab Muslim History", Arutz Sheva, August 23, 2004.
  17. (From Reader and Literary Texts for Eighth Grade #578 p. 103.)
  18. Quote by Joseph Massad from “History on the Line, ‘No Common Ground’: Joseph Massad and Benny Morris Discuss the Middle East.” History Workshop Journal, Issue 53, 2002, p.214-15.
  19. Sand, Shlomo. "Israel deliberately forgets its history." Le Monde diplomatique, September 2008. Accessed 2009-09-04
  20. Tom Segev (February 28, 2008). "An invention called 'the Jewish people'". Haaretz. Retrieved 2009-07-23. 
  21. Karsh, Efraim. Arafat's War: The Man and His Battle for Israeli Conquest. New York: Grove Press, 2003. p. 98-99.
  22. Lewis, Bernard. The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror. New York: The Modern Library, 2003. p. 155.
  23. "Holocaust Denial in the Middle East: The Latest anti-Israel, Anti-Semitic Propaganda Theme", Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved Dec 8, 2006.
  24. "Holocaust Denial in the Middle East: The Latest Anti-Israel Propaganda Theme"PDF (801 KiB), Anti-Defamation League, 2001, p. 12.
  25. "Anti-Semitism in the Palestinian Media", Middle East Media Research Institute, Special Dispatch Series - No. 1, July 15, 1998.
  26. Wicken, Stephen. "Views of the Holocaust in Arab Media and Public Discourse"PDF (238 KiB), Yale Journal of International Affairs, Winter-Spring 2006, p. 104.
  27. Sontag, Deborah. "THE POPE IN THE HOLY LAND: A STRIDENT VOICE; Mufti Says That Israel Uses Holocaust 'to Win Sympathy.'" New York Times. 26 March 2000. 4 September 2009.
  28. qtd in Paz
  29. (dead link?)
  30. "Hamas rips U.N. for teaching the Holocaust." JTA. 31 August 2009. 31 August 2009.

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