Hellbent on crafting an umbilical cord between itself and a biblical, mythical 2000-year old past, Israel has erased the ancient history of Palestinians.
What do you get when you mix ten decades of biblical studies, an Old Testament, the ideology of Zionism, and a tablespoon of politically motivated archaeology, all mixed in a bowl of historical evidence? Author Keith W. Whitelam undertook this recipe and reports on the results in “The Invention of Ancient Israel: The Silencing of Palestinian History” (of 1997). The short answer to the question is that one is left with a toxic modern state, hell-bent on crafting an umbilical cord between itself and a mythical 2000-year old past. In other words, the State of Israel.
If no one were hurt during this process, one could just turn a blind eye and be content that, To each his own. But when the results of the recipe never produce a stable product, and an entire people are continuously being battered into oblivion, we each have a responsibility to step in and say enough is enough.
“The Invention of Ancient Israel” is not an easy read. It is one of those books that when you finish reading the last lines and look up you feel like you just emerged from a washing machine. (I was moved to revisit Whitelam’s book by Israel’s plans to annex parts of what it calls “Judea and Samaria,” the West Bank.) Utilizing a heavy dose of quotations from a long list of resources, Whitelam builds a case that “The Silencing of Palestinian History” has been happening, purposely and for very political ends. He writes,
“The problem here is that the notion of a ‘Palestinian history’ is confined to the modern period, an attempt to articulate accounts of national identity in the face of dispossession and exile. It is as if the ancient past has been abandoned to Israel and the West.”
He goes on to note a passage from “Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question” (Said et al. 1988) that “Palestine has been the home to remarkable civilization ‘centuries before the first Hebrew tribes migrated to the area’ (1988: 235).” This is hard to imagine if you listen to the discourse on Israel in today’s world.