Jewish history is among the most meticulously recorded in the world. The ancient Israelites created the first Hebrew alphabet — known today as “Paleo-Hebrew” — some 3800 years ago, making it among the oldest alphabets in the world. In fact, one controversial study has claimed that Paleo-Hebrew is the oldest alphabet in the world, although most archeologists, linguists, and historians dispute that claim. Regardless, Jews and our ancestors have been recording our history for nearly 4000 years now.
Literacy among the ancient Israelites was shockingly high, around 15-20 percent. Though that sounds low by today’s standards, in the ancient world, such a percentage was astronomical.
Throughout history, Jews have placed a high emphasis on education, and, as such, literacy among Jews, particularly men, has always been high. For thousands of years, upon turning 13, Jewish boys have been commanded to read from the Torah during for their bar mitzvahs (girls reading from the Torah for their bat mitzvahs has been a fairly recent development over the last few centuries). This means that, throughout history, Jews continued to record our story.
But it hasn’t been just Jews who’ve kept a record on our history; so has any other people that we’ve come in contact with. For instance, the Assyrian invasion of the Kingdom of Israel (720 BCE) is attested by Assyrian sources. Similarly, the Babylonian captivity (587/586 BCE-539 BCE) is attested by Babylonian sources. The oldest ever outside mention of “Israel” comes from Egypt, in what is known as the Merneptah Stele, dating back to 1208 BCE, before the Kingdom of Israel was even established.
Antisemitism spreads in a variety of ways. One of its most insidious manifestations is through the rewriting, revising, and denial of well-established Jewish history. There is something so inherently bigoted about denying a people their own history. But Jewish history is not up for debate. We know what happened. I ask the younger generation — whatever your political views are or your position on Zionism — to listen to the facts and primary sources. We know who we are, what we’ve been through, and where we come from. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. You deserve to know the truth.
In 70 CE, in the midst of the First Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, the Romans destroyed the sacred Second Jewish Temple. In 637, the Arab Caliphate [Empire] conquered Jerusalem. Beginning in 688, the Arabs constructed the Dome of the Rock and later the al-Aqsa Mosque atop the ruins of the destroyed sacred Jewish Temple. It was customary for conquering armies — including the Arab armies — to build religious monuments on top of the ruins of the sacred sites of those they conquered. The logic should be absurdly simple: if Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque were built atop the ruins of the Temple — ruins which you can see with your very own eyes and touch with your very own hands today — that means that the Temple was there first.
“Temple denial” is the antisemitic conspiracy that the First and Second Temples did not exist or were located elsewhere. This conspiracy theory has long been advanced by numerous (though not all!) Palestinian politicians, intellectual leaders, religious figures, and authors, particularly in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
The existence and location of the Temples is extensively corroborated by archeology. The ruins of the Second Temple still stand today.
After Jordan conquered East Jerusalem in the 1948 Israeli War of Independence, the Islamic Waqf (Islamic religious committee) in control of Temple Mount erased all references to Solomon’s Temple from its guidebooks (yet some 23 years earlier, the Waqf’s guidebooks had asserted that the fact that Solomon’s Temple was located at Temple Mount was “beyond dispute”). During the Second Intifada (2000-2005), Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat claimed that the Temple had been located in Nablus. At another point, he asserted that it had been located in Yemen and that he’d “seen” its location.
In 1998, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem claimed, “There is not the slightest sign of the previous existence of the Jewish temple on this site. There is not a single stone in the entire city that refers to Jewish history [...] It is the art of the Jews to deceive the world. They can't fool us with that. There is not a single stone in the Western Wall that has anything to do with Jewish history. The Jews have no legitimate claim to this wall, either religiously or historically.” This, of course, is verifiably a lie. Other figures that have engaged in Temple denialism include former titular major of East Jerusalem Zaki al-Ghul and the current Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, who claimed that there was never a Jewish Temple but that there had been a mosque on Temple Mount since “the creation of the world.”
For 2000 years, the world — and Jews — understood that the Jewish People were an Indigenous People displaced from our homeland. For instance: a Sephardic Jewish poem from the Middle Ages, called “Jerusalem of Spain,” talks about Jewish memories from their beloved Judea [Israel/Palestine]: “the gold of Jerusalem/is reflected in the Tagus River [River in the Iberian Peninsula]/the angels come and go/with the weight of their memories/the bricks of Toledo [city in Spain]/guard the memory/of the splendor of Judea.”
But this knowledge goes back even earlier. Psalm 137, written during the Babylonian Exile (587/586 BCE-539 BCE), states: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.”
This knowledge never faded. Throughout the millennia, Jews made attempt after attempt to return to their ancestral homeland, and, at times, even fought for sovereignty, with a briefly successful attempt between 614-617, only two decades before the Arab conquest.
In 1899, Yusuf al-Khalidi, the Arab mayor of Jerusalem, wrote to the Chief Rabbi of France: “In theory, the Zionist idea is completely natural, fine and just. Who can challenge the rights of the Jews in Palestine? Good Lord, historically it is really your country…”
In a 1936 report, the British wrote: “A brief account of ancient Jewish times in Palestine, of the Arab conquest and occupation, of the dispersion of the Jews…” And in Europe, gentiles called Jews “the Palestinians among us.” In 1947, Eliahu Eliachar, a Palestinian Sephardic Jew, stood before the United Nations and testified: “As the Indigenous population of Palestine, we demand the restitution of our rights…and the opening of the gates to all Jews in need of a home, whether from East or West…”
It wasn’t until the mid-1960s that the world changed its tune. Frustrated by the lack of success of the Palestinian cause, Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat heeded the advice of Vietnamese General Võ Nguyên Giáp: “…stop talking about annihilating Israel and instead turn your [Arafat’s] terror war into a struggle for [Indigenous] human rights.” Similarly, Muhammed Yazid, an Algerian minister of information, told Arafat: “Wipe out the impression that in the struggle between the Palestinians and Zionists, the Zionist is the underdog. Now it is the Arab who is oppressed and victimized in his existence because he is not only facing the Zionists but also world imperialism.” Armed with the power of Soviet influence and propaganda, Arafat successfully shifted the narrative.
“GO BACK TO EUROPE”
Jews are an ethnoreligious group and tribe from Eretz Israel (“the Land of Israel” in Hebrew). This is a fact that is easily proven by 4000+ years’ worth of archeology, ample historical record over the last 4 millennia, hundreds of genetic studies in the last several decades, and Jewish culture that dates back thousands of years. The fact that this has even become debatable is absurd; the origins of the Jewish People are even reflected in our language. For instance, the original meaning of the word “diaspora” is “the dispersion of the Jewish People beyond the Land of Israel.” The word “tribe” was first used in reference to the Jewish People. The word “Jew” derives not from a faith, but from “Judah” (as in the Kingdom of Judah, one of the two Israelite kingdoms).
Jews spread to just about every corner of the earth primarily due to numerous campaigns of ethnic cleansing at the hands of a series of empires, such as the Babylonian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, the Arab caliphates, and the Kingdom of Jerusalem (the Crusaders). In other words, the majority of Jews that ended up in Europe or somewhere in Southwest Asia, for example, arrived there unwillingly.
The phrase “go back to where you came from” is a racist and xenophobic expression first popularized by the Ku Klux Klan, though its origins date at least all the way back to the late 1700s. It became increasingly common in the aftermath of World War I and was hurled as an insult targeting Black folks, Asian folks, Latine and Hispanic folks, and Jews, among other minority groups. This phrase is now used in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is ludicrous, considering over half of Israeli Jews are Mizrahi and Sephardi; that is, their families never set foot in Europe. It’s not only absurd to tell Jews whose families never set foot in Europe to “go back to Europe,” but it’s also extremely offensive to tell Jews whose families did live in Europe to “go back to Europe.” Why? Well, it’s like telling Jews to go back to the countries that abused us for over 1000 years.
Over the past two millennia, the Jews of Europe were systemically massacred; sometimes, these massacres, also known as pogroms, reached genocidal levels. For example, between 1917-1923, during the Russian Civil War, between 50,000-200,000 Jews were murdered in the former Russian Empire. These massacres were often sponsored or spurred on by the local governments and were incredibly brutal in nature, including body mutilation, sexual assault, various forms of public humiliation, and more. Over the past two millennia, Jews have been expelled from nearly every corner of Europe. Jews were confined to ghettos, subject to a plethora of unequal laws, denied citizenship until well into the 1800s (citizenship which was for many Jews rescinded during the Nazi period), humiliated and degraded in a variety of ways, and more.
Holocaust denial is an antisemitic and anti-Romani conspiracy theory that asserts that the Holocaust is either a myth, an exaggeration, or a fabrication. Historians widely agree that genocide denial is an integral part — and the final step — of genocide.
Before the Holocaust was even over, German authorities already had plans to destroy or conceal the evidence of the genocide. As soon as it became obvious that the Nazis would lose the war, Heinrich Himmler instructed all concentration and death camp commandants to destroy the crematoria, records, and other signs of mass extermination. Bodies were burned and some death camps, such as Treblinka, were essentially fully destroyed. Other countries that had collaborated with the Nazis, such as France, also participated in burying evidence.
Holocaust denial takes many forms. Sometimes it’s outright denial that the Holocaust happened. Usually, however, it’s a distortion of established facts about the Holocaust. Holocaust inversion is a rhetorical tool used to portray Jews as morally equivalent — or worse — than Nazis. It’s often employed in discussions about Israel-Palestine and is frequently used by anti-Zionists. Holocaust inversion is a form of Holocaust revisionism, and, as such, is inherently a form of Holocaust denial.
Holocaust inversion has its roots in the British Foreign Office during the period of the British Mandate of Palestine. In March of 1945 — about two months before the Nazis even surrendered — the High Commissioner of Palestine, Lord Gort, told the Colonial Secretary in London that “the establishment of any Jewish State in Palestine…will almost inevitably mean the rebirth of National Socialism [i.e. Nazism] in some guise.”
Sir John Bagot Glubb, who later became the British Commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion during the 1948 war, wrote in a 1946 memorandum to the British government that the “new Jews” (i.e. Jewish refugees) had copied Nazi techniques and adopted Hitler’s master race theory. Unsurprisingly, Glubb was a virulent antisemite who considered Jews “unlikeable, aggressive, stiff-necked, vengeful, and imbued with the idea of [being] a superior race.”
Another influential form of Holocaust revisionism came from the Soviet Union, which infamously began distorting the history and the facts of the Holocaust even before the war was won. The Soviet propaganda machine never acknowledged the specifically antisemitic nature of the Holocaust, but instead, depicted all Soviets (as well as communism) as the main victims of the Nazis.
“EVERYONE GOT ALONG”
One of the most pervasive lies on social media is that Jews, Muslims, and Christians perfectly got along in Palestine before the advent of modern political Zionism. This is a bold-faced, offensive lie, used to silence or gaslight Jews in our fight for self-determination.
Following the unsuccessful Jewish Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Roman Empire (132-135) and the subsequent Hadrianic Genocide, in which over a million Jews were killed, life for Jews in Palestine drastically deteriorated. The situation under the Byzantine Empire wasn’t any better. But it was the Arab conquest (637) that drastically changed the demographics of Palestine.
With the Arab conquest, Jews became dhimmis, or second-class citizens, subject to a number of unequal laws, such as: Jews had to show deference to Muslims; for example, if a Muslim wished to sit where a Jew was sitting, the Jewish person had to give up their seat. Jews had to wear identifying yellow belts or turbans and had to cut off their sidelocks. Jews could not own weapons. Jews had to host Muslim passerbys for 3 days. Jews could not govern, lead, or employ Muslims. Jewish witnesses were not admissible in court. Jews were subject to a “jizya” tax. Jews could not join the military or work for the government. When harmed by a Muslim, Jews had to purchase Muslim witnesses, which left Jews with virtually no legal recourse. Jews could not marry a Muslim woman. Jews could not criticize Islam or the Quran on penalty of death.
The Hakim Edict, constructed by “the mad Caliph” Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah (996-1021) coerced Jews into either converting to Islam or exile from Israel-Palestine in 1012 in an act of ethnic cleansing.
Prior to this expulsion, Al-Hakim’s implementation of dhimmi laws was particularly oppressive. In addition to other differentiating garments, Jews were forced to wear heavy wooden calf necklaces. In public baths, Jews had to replace the calf with a bell. Alcohol was strictly forbidden, which proved difficult for both Christians and Jews, who used wine for their religious rites. Synagogues and churches were destroyed. Many Jews unwillingly converted to Islam but continued practicing Judaism in secret.
Jews were also murdered in a number of pogroms, dating all the way back to the 1500s. With the passing of the British White Paper in 1939, thanks to the pressure of the Arab Higher Committee, Jews once again became second-class citizens.
One of the most frustrating arguments in Israel-Palestine discourse is that all of “historic Palestine” belongs to Palestinians; that is, the entirety of the map of the State of Israel, as well as Gaza and the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) are rightfully Palestinian territory. So let’s break it down.
To understand what constitutes “historic Palestine,” we first must understand where the terms “Israel” and “Palestine” come from. The name “Israel” dates back to the period of the Torah and has been in use for at least 3000 years. The first known non-Biblical usage of “Israel” was found in an Egyptian inscription dating back to 1208 BCE. It refers to “Israel” as a people. In 1040 BCE, a loose confederation of Israelite tribes came together to found the Kingdom of Israel. In 930 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel split into the kingdoms of Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Today’s modern-day Jews and Samaritans are the direct descendants of the ancient Israelites.
The first use of the word “Palestine” to describe a geographic region was in the 5th century BCE, at least 700 years after the use of the word “Israel.” Like the Land of Israel, “Palestine” was a loose region, describing the coastal strip that runs from Egypt to Lebanon. Between 132 CE-136 CE, when the Romans ruled over the Land of Israel (then known as the province of “Judea,” as in “Jew”), the Jewish population revolted for the third time against the foreign rulers. Following the revolt, Emperor Hadrian changed the name of Judea to “Syria-Palestina,” marking the first time that “Palestine” was used as the official, legal name of the region.
It’s important to note, however, that Palestine wasn’t known as Palestine from 136 CE. Its name changed periodically depending on those in power. As recently as the Ottoman period (1517-1917), the residents of what is now Israel-Palestine commonly called themselves “southern Syrians.” The first Arab to identify as Palestinian was Khalil Beidas in 1898. Palestine was revived as a political name under the British Mandate (1920-1948).
Prior to Israel’s capturing of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in 1967, the Palestine Liberation Organization did not claim those territories, which were under Egyptian and Jordanian rule, respectively. It was only after Israel’s capture that the PLO claimed that those territories constituted part of historic Palestine.
Out of all of the antisemitic conspiracies that aim to sever Jewish ties to the Land of Israel, none is more pervasive than the Khazar Theory, which claims that Jews — generally Ashkenazi Jews, though similar claims have been made of Bukharan and Mountain Jews — are not the descendants of the ancient Israelites but instead the descendants of Khazar converts to Judaism. This is demonstrably false.
Genetic studies conclusively tie the origins of about 90 percent of Jews — including Ashkenazi, Bukharan, and Mountain Jews — to the region of the Levant, a region that encompasses modern-day Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and parts of Turkey. Genetic testing on Jews has also found a clear genetic link to the ancient Canaanites. The overwhelming majority of historians, archeologists, and linguists consider that the Israelite tribes were an offshoot of the Canaanites. In fact, Hebrew is the only Canaanite language that has survived to this day, and remnants of ancient Canaanite culture can be found in Jewish culture. For instance, Passover bears overwhelming resemblance to an earlier Canaanite harvest festival.
The Khazars were an ancient, semi-nomadic Turkic people originating in Central Asia. Between 650-968, the Khazar Kingdom reached the eastern part of Ukraine. Some Khazars converted to Judaism, likely to oppose the growing Christian and Muslim influence of other empires. However, the scope of this conversion is highly debated by historians. That said, today’s Ukrainian Jews are Ashkenazi and are not descended from the Khazars, as the Khazars were exterminated during the Tatar invasions in the 13th century.
Genetic studies on Ashkenazi Jews have found virtually zero evidence of Khazar origin. The Khazar Theory, which first gained traction in the late 19th century, is mostly associated with white supremacy and Russian nationalists, though in recent decades, it’s been adopted by left-wing antisemites to deny the connection of Jews to the Land of Israel. It’s also a prevalent idea among 9/11 antisemitic conspiracy theorists.
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