At Least Leave Me My History
I came across a disheartening post on mondoweiss.net this evening. Now, I don’t usually read Mondoweiss much — the thinly-veiled paranoia and Jew-hatred of their commenters being just a tad too much for my delicate stomach — but once in a while one of their postings finds its way into my lap.
So it was with this one: “Birthright map gives the West Bank to the settlers and Gaza to Egypt“. In it, Adam Horowitz expounds upon a smuggled map from some kid’s Birthright Israel trip introductory booklet, ‘revealing’ how the choices of color and terminology reveal sinister right-wing Zionist designs, specifically…
- including the names “Judea” and “Samaria” along with “the West Bank”, and
- coloring Gaza green, as opposed to the light blue of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
So, tickle me to death with a rubber chicken if I’m wrong, but I don’t think you need to be a cartographer to figure out that a good reason to color Gaza differently than the WB/GH is because there is currently no permanent Israeli presence inside the Gaza Strip. There is no Israeli culture to see there, there are no Israelis who live there, and while the region has considerable Jewish and Israeli history attached to it, Birthright Israel buses would no more go there than they would go to see sites of historical value in Jordan. On the other hand, Birthright trips often stop at places like Latrun and the Old City section of Jerusalem, both just over the green line in the West Bank. They visit tons of places in the Golan Heights, and have even been known to use the Jordan Valley highway to get there.
As for the names of the West Bank, I don’t see any reason why including the Hebrew names for the area is such a shanda. Judea was Judea and Samaria was Samaria long before there were Israeli settlers there. They’ll be Judea and Samaria long after a Palestinian state is built there. I can call these lands by the names my ancestors called them and at the same time acknowledge that it’s right for another people, perhaps calling them different names, to rule there now.
The only thing accomplished by stigmatizing the use of Hebrew names is the suppression of Hebrew history — which while trendy these days (cf: “The Invention of the Jewish People” by Shlomo Sand) — does not serve peace or justice any more than denying Palestinian history does (cf: the charming historical information signs I saw in Old Jaffa today, in every language but Arabic).
It’s clear from the comments over at Mondoweiss that some folks are outraged that a Jewish heritage trip for Jewish young people would acknowledge the existence of Jewish geography. And while I can empathize with the ignorant and the rabid inasmuch as we all want the Palestinian story to come to its flowering in freedom and security, I would never consider somebody an ally in this cause who tried to tear out the pages of the Jewish story from the same book.