Most Palestinians, Arabs and their sympathisers know all too well that turning Palestine into Israel involved a truckload of falsification, but few know the extent of the deception, or the full spectrum of the lived history that was submerged.
In “Hidden Histories”, Jerusalemite Basem L. Ra’ad takes the reader on a time and space travel that shuttles between the ancient Canaanite civilisation and occupied Palestine today, affirming the demographic and cultural continuity of the Eastern Mediterranean over successive millennia.
It is not only that Israel changed place names in order to bolster its claim to the land. The broader issue is that Western scholars and travellers viewed Palestine almost exclusively through Biblical lenses, and thus failed to see the real people and history of the region, instead contriving myths that resulted in “an idealised land and a demonised people”. (p. 15)
Only due to public acceptance of such mythologizing was Zionism able to succeed in colonising Palestine. “Past ignorance and now circumlocution make it possible to exploit the sacred geography common in the West until the nineteenth century as well as the fundamentalist Christian Zionism that preceded (and in many ways prepared for) the Jewish Zionist movement.” (p. 132)
“Hidden Histories” offers a powerful corrective to common understandings. It emphasizes Palestine’s long history and dispels many old and new myths – covering issues of religious origins and sacred sites, identity and self-colonization, and the retrieval of ancient heritage.
Basem L. Ra’ad is a Professor at Al-Quds University, Jerusalem. Born in Jerusalem, he received his education in Jordan, Lebanon, the U.S. and Canada, earning a Ph.D. at the University of Toronto in 1978. He has been an editor and community organiser, and taught in various countries, including Canada, Bahrain and Lebanon.
Hidden Histories: Palestine and the Eastern Mediterranean
Basem L. Ra’ad
London-New York: Pluto Press, 2010