Over the years, Robert Spencer has written enough books on Islam to fill a good-sized bookshelf and to provide, along with the Koran and a few other key documents, an ideal syllabus for an intensive course in the Religious of Peace. The topics of his books include the Koran, sharia law, the life of Muhammed, the history of jihad, the nature of stealth jihad, Iran, ISIS, the differences between Christianity and Islam, and the “war on terror.” While holding to a consistently high level of scholarship, Spencer invariably writes in a lucid, straightforward manner that makes his works ideally suited for the intelligent common reader.
The newest addition to the Spencer shelf is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process . It covers a lot of material, but does so as cogently as ever. First, he refutes definitively the myth that today’s so-called Palestinian Arabs descend from indigenous inhabitants of what is now Israel. “No archeological evidence, or evidence of any other kind, has ever been found to substantiate a link between the ancient Canaanites or Jebusites and the modern-day Palestinians,” Spencer writes. “Palestine was the name of a region but never of a people or of a political entity.”
Yes, the region was under Arab rule for a while a very long time ago – after the Eastern Roman Empire collapsed and before the Ottoman Empire moved in – but there were always Jews there, and, usually, few if any Arabs. In fact, as the accounts of travelers quoted by Spencer testify, the region was thinly populated for centuries. It was in the nineteenth century that British visitors and officials began to seriously envision this desolate area as a future population center for Jews.
Yet not all Brits were big on the idea. Though the Balfour Declaration, issued in 1917 by British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour, expressed support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland (but not necessarily a Jewish state) in Palestine, pro-Arab Brits, notably T.E. Lawrence of Lawrence of Arabia fame, promoted the myth that the Arabs had been strong British allies in World War I, and thus deserved at least some of the former Ottoman territory that the League of Nations had placed under British administration in 1922 with the explicit intention of transforming it, eventually, into an independent Jewish state.
In any event, it was during these years that Jews from the diaspora started relocating to their ancient homeland in considerable numbers. At the same time, Arabic-speaking Muslims from North Africa and elsewhere migrated there, too. In reaction to these developments, the British banned Jewish settlement east of the Jordan. Hence it wasn’t the case, as many would now have you believe, that the Jews stole land from Arab Muslims; on the contrary, the British took much of the ancient Jewish homeland, territory that Jews had expected to be able to settle and govern, and gave it to Arab Muslims who had no historic connection to it whatsoever.
Even this undeserved handout, however, wasn’t enough for many of those Arab Muslims, or for their supporters in Britain, some of whom openly encouraged anti-Jewish Arab violence. Muslim terrorism in the Holy Land, in short, didn’t start with the founding of Israel; it began decades earlier. One early high point of this long campaign of terror was the August 1929 murder of over 200 Jews in Hebron, Safed, and Jerusalem, which a British government commission found to be entirely the fault of Arab Muslims, but nonetheless managed to blame on the Jews for having “arouse[d]…apprehensions” among the Arabs with, among other things, their spirit of “enterprise.”
It took the Holocaust to gin up Western sympathy for a Jewish homeland. The death of FDR, an anti-Semite, didn’t hurt, Harry Truman being more sympathetic to Zionism, but the replacement of Winston Churchill, a philo-semite, by the anti-Zionist Clement Attlee did hurt. Still, Israel became a reality. Yet while Jews were perfectly willing to live alongside Arabs, the feeling wasn’t mutual. For devout Muslims, “[d]estroying Israel,” once there was an Israel, was, as Spencer puts it, “a religious imperative, even an act of worship.”
Alas, many of the Brits who were involved in mapping out the post-Ottoman Empire Middle East, cutting the area allotted to Jews down to a thin strip along the Mediterranean while giving the Arabs Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), didn’t get this – and many Westerners, of course, still don’t. For decades, millions of naïve Westerners have bought the lie that so-called Palestinian Arabs hate Israel because it took their homeland; on the contrary, the Palestinians hate Jews because the Koran, quite simply, instructs them to.
From the moment of its founding, then, Israel was the target of Arab Muslim violence. Yet while the Arab Muslims never managed to destroy the Jewish state, they proved canny at anti-Israel propaganda. Central to this PR effort was the invention of the Palestinian people. A century ago, Spencer notes, “the word ‘Palestinians’ was more often applied to Jews than to Muslim Arabs.” Indeed, “some Arabs rejected the term, explaining: ‘We are not Palestinians, we are Arabs. The Palestinians are the Jews.’” The name Palestine had in fact been given to the region in A.D. 134 by the Romans, after they had expelled the Jews, and was based on “the name of the Israelites’ ancient enemies, the Philistines.”
Yet during the nearly two millennia between then and the mid twentieth century, there were no people who went by the name of “Palestinians.” It was not until after Israel became a reality that some of its Arab Muslim enemies began calling themselves Palestinians, insisting that their ancestors had continuously inhabited what was now Israel, and claiming that they had been cruelly displaced by the Jews. This was a lie. Even Yasser Arafat, head of this crew, was really from Cairo. So was Edward Said, the duplicitous Columbia University professor who claimed a Palestinian identity and did so much to promote the Palestinian cause in the United States. In a 1977 interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw, a PLO leader admitted that “[t]he Palestinian people does not exist.” Hafez Assad, the president of Syria, once told Arafat the same thing: “There is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” Yet Arafat’s Big Lie is now universally accepted as true.
After covering these matters, in an account rich with colorful details, Spencer takes us through the Six-Day War and the Yom Kippur War, then the Camp David Accords and Oslo Accords. Both of these agreements were scams that served only to enhance the position of Arafat and the PLO, who had no intention of making peace with Israel, and that were made possible, first, by the credulity, Islamophilia, and antisemitism of Jimmy Carter, and, second, by the self-promoting cynicism of Bill Clinton. Later, meddling in the region by George W. Bush and Barack Obama were, respectively, foolhardy and motivated by an affection for Islam that exceeded even Carter’s.
Certain themes recur throughout this book: the naivete of world powers, principally the US and UK, about Islamic attitudes toward Judaism; the heavy doses of Arabism and anti-Zionism in the ranks of those countries’ diplomatic services and civil services generally; the repeated readiness on the part of those countries’ leaders to give the Palestinians yet one more chance and to demand of Israel yet more concessions; and the stubborn refusal of these countries, even after the horror of 9/11 and the ensuing acts of deadly mass terrorism around the world, to face fundamental truths about Islam and to recognize, at long last, that Palestinian identity, and Palestinian victimhood, are fictions.
Spencer covers plenty of other topics here, among them the systematic inculcation of Palestinian children with poisonous Jew-hatred; the PLO’s payment of massive sums to the families of dead and imprisoned jihadists; the staggering levels of corruption of Palestinian leaders, from Arafat onward; the fanatical anti-Israel bias of an increasingly Muslim-dominated UN; the readiness of Western media to serve up anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian lies; and the readiness of countless people who have never been anywhere near the Middle East to swallow these lies unquestioningly.
If you’re reading this review, you probably aren’t one of those people who fall for the media’s multitudinous mendacities about the Middle East. Even so, chances are that there is much in Spencer’s book that will be new to you and that will deepen your outrage at the enemies of the Jewish people – and enrich your admiration for those everyday heroes who have enabled Israel, in the face of so much faith-based hatred, not only to survive but to thrive. Chances are, too, that more than a few of your friends and relatives are among those who’ve bought the anti-Israeli line wholesale. You would be doing them, and Israel, and the ever-valiant Mr. Spencer, a service by buying them copies of this book as Christmas gifts.