By Asher Shla'in

Asher Shla'in wrote during Winter 1999 a "Myth" (in Hebrew & English). He called it "PALISTRAEL". Following are some excerpts from that story.

I did not hear that all this ever happened, but this is what I am about to tell.

... a very curious ideological alliance is forming among the Palestinians.

... It is a new Palestinian movement that is prepared to see in the Zionist idea a positive value for them. On the other hand, the same movement attaches no great value to the relations of the Palestinians with the Arab countries.

These Palestinians ... contend that they are in fact mainly Israelis who remained on their land while the Roman-Christian regime was replaced by the Moslem rule. Most of them used then to be Jews; a considerable minority were Samaritans. In those days the lot of them accepted Islam. ... Accepting Islam was helped not the least by the fact that it honored the site of the Jewish temple, and rebuilt that desolate mount.

... Various findings were mentioned, among them: preserving the ancient names of towns and villages; observing Jewish practices in various villages; and also the fact that up to the 20th century, the adherence of most Palestinians to Islamic practice was not great.

Accordingly, a few Palestinians began to wonder whether it is more conceivable to view the "return of the Jews to Zion" as a process that brings brothers together -- brethren who had been separated for ages and are destined to share again the same lot.
A letter that they circulated to various "public figures" included the following paragraphs:

The Moslem and Turkish regimes forcibly united the whole Middle East, and blurred the distinction of the various peoples. Only in the present century the Palestinians started to be aware of their uniqueness. This trend was enhanced by the Zionist Jewish immigration, and later by the demarcation of the country by the British mandate.

The encounter between the immigrating Jews and the Palestinian brethren was tragic. On the one hand, the Jews tended to ignore the rights of the local residents. ... On the other hand, the Palestinian leaders failed to understand that Zionism could be a great opportunity for their national salvation....

Now is the time to require, first of us, the Palestinians, to declare ourselves all as original Israelis. Then we should demand of the Jews to recognize it and let us have our place within the framework of the universal Jewry.

The "figures" that received the letter preferred to ignore it.

One of the group's leaders, Aziz Najar, was a guest at... (a talk) show.

The man has a handsome appearance, glowing eyes, excellent Hebrew.... another guest ... argued that the Palestinians maintain no real relationship to the Jewish religion.

Najar's response to that was as follows:

The People of Israel had not always been uniform concerning religious practice. The Christianity and the Islam of the Palestinians are much nearer to present Judaism than the worship of idols, Gold Calves, various Baals and stellar bodies, which characterized the Tribes of Israel beside the worship of the One God.

Most of the Jewish public nowadays does not ascribe much importance to religion.

... a female model ... said, that anyway the language of the Israelis is Hebrew, as it used to be in ancient days. Najar said to her:

Losing the Hebrew language happened not to the Palestinians alone.

The Jews in this land and in Babylon, shifted to Aramaic, many years before the Islam era. In the various exiles they adopted the ruling language: Greek, Spanish, Arabic, German, English -- and in all cases kept to Hebrew only as a religious practice language that most of them couldn't understand.

Palestinians, who return to Hebrew as well, are marked for a fluent clear language. For many of the Palestinian intellectuals, Hebrew is the main reading language.

... a telephone call ... from Ramalla... brought up the theory of several Palestinian thinkers, contending that the Palestinians are the descendants of the Canaanites who used to live here before the Israelis.

Najar dismissed this theory as "improbable". He said:

There is no historic model that demonstrates that it was precisely the Jews who left the land, while the Canaanites -- of which nothing was heard for millennia -- remained. At most, one could contend that a lot of Canaanite blood flows in both Jewish and Palestinian veins...

The host asked Najar whether according to him there is not an extensive mixture of Arabs among the Palestinians, and he responded:

It is true that the Israeli Palestinians did absorb different populations -- from the Arab conquerors as well as from nearby lands. Yet, the purity of race never characterized the general Israeli people. During the days of the First Temple they absorbed the Canaanites. In the 1st century BC they absorbed the whole Edomite nation in one block, as was done also with the Arab Jeturi Tribe who used to live in this land.

The Jews in the Diaspora also absorbed large foreign populations such as Khazaris, Yemenites, Carthaginians, Ethiopians and many more.

More of what Najar said in that show is:

The elderly people remember and miss the great fondness that used to prevail between Jews and Palestinians in various places on a personal basis with good neighborliness. The great trouble was with the political leaders of both. They demanded from each side loyalty to their own tribe, clothing the other side with a threatening and vicious image. Thus, they led to: conflicts, raids, pogroms and boycott, wars and refugees, military rule and occupation, suppression and collaborators, beating and torture, Intifada, kidnapping and murder, prison, demolition of houses, uprooting of trees, deportations and closures -- up to mass killing by suicidal religious fanatics of both sides.

... There were in the past severe civil wars among the Children of Israel.

The Tribe of Benjamin was almost fully exterminated in such a war.

The Children of Manasseh massacred their close brethren the Children of Ephraim.

The Kingdom of Judah fought the Kingdom of Ephraim.

Hasmonaeans and Hellenists, Sadducees and Pharisees, national zealots and moderates -- all fought each other with extreme bitterness -- yet, the People remained the same People.
The Sharing of Destiny must be renewed between the Palestinian Children of Israel who clung to their land and their Jewish brethren, the returning expatriates, who clung to their religion.

According to him, the Palestinian autonomy should serve only during a period of transition towards true unity.

The difficulties in managing the autonomy indicate the existence of a basic problem that will persist as long as the attitude in both sides does not change.

It is not in vain that the 'Israeli Palestinians' are reluctant to join a separate Palestinian state.

Different frameworks to Jews and Palestinians should be maintained as long as it is necessary...

Eventually the differences will diminish to include mainly matters of local government, preserving ethnic cultural assets and maintenance of religious institutions.

He sees no hindrance for Palestinians to share service in the Israeli army. As a matter of fact, he recommends it warmly.

(Another) guest on the show, asked Najar what was his view on the prospective reaction of the Arab countries to his ideas. The answer was:

What happened to us Palestinians after '48 should convince us that those countries are no sisters -- not to the Moslems in Palestine and for sure not to the Christians.
We don't care much for the Arab regimes. We need not belong to the Arab league... Yes, we do share with them language and religion -- but this cannot overweigh authentic nationalism.

It is a fact that whenever Palestinians and Zionists operate together -- understanding and success emerge, of the kind we could never achieve with Arabs who are alien to us. Only Zionism can grant us real democracy.

Najar... quoted Isaiah:

"... The envy of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim."

This appearance aroused a harsh and abusive reaction in the circles of the PLO, while people of the Jihad and the Hamas and also the Fatah-Hawks, even threatened to do away with Najar and the rest of the activists of this new alliance.

The story goes on, but the space for it here is limited. In 2001 a second installment to the story (only in Hebrew) was distributed.

Read the full text

The second part of the story (in Hebrew)

Asher's Proposal: An Alternative To "Disengagement"

About Asher Shla'in

Articles published in HopeWays' 'News & Views' section

Visit Asher's Website

Or write to:

Asher Shla'in
P.O.Box 36242 Tel Aviv 61362
Voice Mail: [972]-(0)3-5608150
Home Phone: [972]-(0)3-5609573 (not on Sabbath)

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