Netanyahu’s Joke

Yonatan Mendel

Yesterday, on the 67th anniversary of the establishment of Israel (Palestinians commemorate the Nakba today), Binyamin Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister. It’s taken him a while to put together a governing coalition of 61 seats, against 59 in the opposition. It’s worth watching the first minute of Netanyahu’s speech to the Knesset. You don’t have to understand Hebrew. ‘Tonight with God’s help,’ he begins, ‘we will create a government in Israel.’ He pauses for a second. ‘We will defend Israeli security.’ Another pause. ‘And we will strive for peace.’ At the word ‘peace’ (‘shalom’) many members of the Knesset couldn’t contain themselves. Bursts of spontaneous laughter broke out from the opposition benches. Led by Arab MKs from the Joint List, the contagious laughter carried away more and more members of the opposition. The word ‘peace’ in Israel, especially spoken by Netanyahu, is a joke. It is indeed funny to watch. Yet it is the tragic story of Israel.


  • 16 May 2015 at 9:31am
    stettiner says:
    In The Arab Awakening from 1938, the Lebanon born Egyptian George Antonius, an active antizionist, states the following: "The year 1920 has an evil name in Arab annals: it is referred to as the Year of the Catastrophe (Am al-Nakba). It saw the first armed risings that occurred in protest against the post-War settlement imposed by the Allies on the Arab countries". They rioted at this nakba, this catastrophe, because they found deeply offensive the very idea that they should be independent from Syria and Syrians and even possibly called Palestinians; every Arab knew then, the the Palestinians were Jewish...

    • 20 May 2015 at 2:20pm
      Alan Benfield says: @ stettiner
      They didn't riot, they did battle with the French and British forces who occupied and divided the area of the old Ottoman Empire after the 1st World war, under a League of Nations mandate. They lost.

      The idea that Arabs living in the area would object to being called Palestinians is both ahistorical and ludicrous: the derivation of the name Palestine is ancient and goes back, by all accounts, to more than 1200 BCE. The Romans called it Philistia (hence 'philistine'). The objection was to the artificial division imposed on lands previously unified, as well as colonial government imposed from outside.

      All the various organisations set up by Arab residents of what was called British Mandate Palestine invariably named themselves something with 'Palestine' in it, which is strange if they hated being called Palestinians so much.

      Can you actually back your statements up, or is it your usual made-up nonsense? This seems to be a variant on the 'empty land' bull so favoured by Zionists who like to claim that there weren't any Arabs in Palestine when Balfour made his declaration.

      And what's it got to do with Israeli Arab politicians laughing at Bibi's use of the word 'peace', anyway?

    • 21 May 2015 at 2:59pm
      stettiner says: @ Alan Benfield
      "There is no such country as Palestine. 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented. There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria. 'Palestine' is alien to us. It is the Zionists who introduced it".
      - Awni Abd al-Hadi, "Palestinian" Arab leader to British Peel Commission, 1937 -

    • 21 May 2015 at 6:43pm
      Alan Benfield says: @ stettiner
      Yeah, well, I am sure we can all cherry-pick quotations to support our thesis. I am sure that you found this quote from his Wikipedia entry.

      But what he was saying, in common with many other Arab nationalists of the time, was that the artificial division of the Arab lands into 'Syria' and 'Palestine' was purely a consequence of the League of Nations Mandate and had nothing to do with the actual make-up of the local population.

      I note that, as usual, you studiously avoid my other questions...


      were all the inhabitants of 'Palestine' in 1920 Jews, as you seem to suggest, leading the Arabs to shun the name 'Palestinian', because all Palestinians were Jews?


      "what’s it got to do with Israeli Arab politicians laughing at Bibi’s use of the word ‘peace’, anyway?"

      Let's leave aside the well-documented ancient origins of the name Palestine. Al-Hadi was a pol, not a historian.

      Looking forward to your carefully documented reply...

    • 21 May 2015 at 7:52pm
      stettiner says: @ Alan Benfield
      It would help, if you put some effort in actually reading my comments. It seems, you didn't read Mendel neither.

      I didn't comment on prime minister's "Joke". It was about the Nakba.

      I didn't write that all the inhabitants of the mandate in 1920 were Jews. During the whole mandate period the Palestinian Football Team was Jewish, the Palestinian Philharmonic Orchestra was Jewish, the Palestinian Post was Jewish, the Palestinian Chess Association was Jewish. The Palestinian Regiment, fighting the nazis in WW II was Jewish. Non-Jewish entities were either Arab or - more seldom - Palestinian Arab. Not even the Arab Higher Committee was Palestinian. So yes, Palestinians were Jews and Arabs were Arabs.

    • 22 May 2015 at 10:03am
      Alan Benfield says: @ stettiner
      ...and the Palestine Police were largely British (and neither Jewish nor Arab), so what does that prove? Just because various Jewish organisations used the title 'Palestinian' does not demonstrate anything. The Palestine Orchestra (as it was correctly called), created in 1936 largely by Jewish musicians excluded from work in Europe by anti-Semitic policies later became the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. So what?

      But ok, based upon a throwaway remark about the anniversary of the (second) Nakba/creation of the state of Israel, you go off on your own bizarre little tack to present, once again, your skewed version of history. Fine.

      I maintain, however, that your reading of history is false, or at least selective. See (amongst many others):

      etc, ad infinitum.

      My question is, what do you think your distorted view of history is supposed to show?

      By the way, accusing your interlocutor of not reading your arguments properly (or not understanding them) is a typical sign of someone who is losing the argument (or too lazy to make the argument properly).

  • 16 May 2015 at 8:48pm
    rae donaldson says:
    Yeah, I get it: different people at different times have described different events using the same word.

  • 25 May 2015 at 2:50pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    I don't know if anyone knows exactly who the ancient Philistines were when they appeared on the scene along that part of the coast that is now mostly Lebanon and Israel; they were mentioned by both Egyptian and Jewish chroniclers. I remember a debate/discussion of about 30 years ago when they were sometimes called "the sea people", implying that they had arrived by ship (successive fleets?) on that coast. An effort was also made to connect them with the raiders who attacked Crete and the coast of Egypt during the 1500-1200 BCE period. Many guesses were hazarded about where they had come from and what language-group they belonged to (including the one that they were related to either the Hittites or the Hattites), but I have no idea if students of that time and place have finally resolved these questions. They certainly left behind a regional name that's about three millennia old now.

    • 25 May 2015 at 3:37pm
      Fred Skolnik says: @ Timothy Rogers
      There is pretty much a consensus among historians (see the 3rd edition of the Cambridge Ancient History, among others) that the Philistines were an Aegean Sea People who arrived off the coast of Syria, Phoenicia and Egypt from the West in around 1200 B.C. and occupied the so-called Lands of the Philistines (the biblical Peleshet) between Gaza and Ashdod. The Jews established the Kingdom of Israel in around 1000 B.C. and later the Kingdoms of Judah (Judea), the Hasmoneans (Maccabees) and Herod. When the Romans conquered the Jews they changed the name Judea to Palaestina (derived from Philistia) to obliterate the connection to the Jews. The British revived the name under their Mandate. The Arabs came out of the Arabian Desert in the 7th century and conquered the Land of Israel along with the rest of the Middle East. They have absolutely nothing to do with the Philistines, Philistia or Palestine.

      Arabs living in the historical Land of Israel indeed thought of themselves as living in Southern or Greater Syria and as being an indistiguishable part of the Arab nation. There was nothing that can be called a Palestinian identity or national consciousness until the State of Israel was established, except among a very small urbam elite during the Mandate period.

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