The "P is for Palestine" children's book that is causing so much controversy presents anti-Israel propaganda and deeply disturbing justifications for "intifada" violence. But it also contains one very important truth.
Golbarg Bashi, the Iranian-born author, decided to use the device of an alphabet book to indoctrinate children with anti-Israel messages. The most incendiary part, which has been at the center of much of the public debate about the book, declares, "I is for Intifada, Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or grownup!"
The accompanying illustration shows a father and child, wearing keffiyahs, standing near barbed wire (symbol of "Israeli oppression") and flashing the V-for-victory sign. Victory over Israel, that is.
Not surprisingly, many Jews are troubled by Bashi's attempt to justify and glorify the waves of Palestinian "intifada" violence, in which more than 1,300 Israeli Jews were murdered.
Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of Manhattan's Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, a leading critic of the book, correctly described it as "the glorification of the Palestinian intifada—a cruel, murderous, and terroristic campaign that purposely targeted innocent Israelis, including children, in restaurants, buses, hospitals, schools and shopping malls...The intifada was not 'a rising up for what is right.' It was a mass descent into immorality."
In a Facebook post, Bashi blamed criticism of her book on what she called "self-proclaimed powerful neighborhoods of New York City." That's pretty obvious code language for "the Jews."
But it's also important to pay close attention to the explanations that Bashi and her supporters have presented in several recent interviews. "Intifada is part of Palestinian life, to resist occupation," she told JTA. In an interview with Haaretz, Bashi elaborated, "Intifada is an aspect of Palestinian life just as Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus Christ." An Israeli Arab educator named Areej Masarwa added, "It's part of Palestinian identity."
Exactly right. Mass violence against Jews is indeed a central part of "Palestinian" identity. And that tells us a lot about Palestinian identity.
Palestinian Arab nationalism did not arise because of any major historical, linguistic, religious or cultural differences between Palestinian Arabs and, say, Jordanian Arabs or Syrian Arabs. That's because there aren't any. Palestinian nationalism arose as an anti-nationalism. Its raison d'être is to murder Jews and destroy the state of Israel.
Other nations express their distinctive identity through positive cultural expressions. The Palestinians express their identity by bombing, shooting, hijacking, stabbing and stoning Jews. Witness Sunday's stabbing attack at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station.
Why does the character of Palestinian Arab identity matter? Because the fight for Israel's survival is not just a military conflict. It's also a war of ideas. Understanding the legitimacy of Jewish nationalism, and the falseness of Palestinian nationalism, is vital. We must understand why our side is right—and why their side is wrong. So, thank you, Golbarg Bashi, for helping to remind us of the true nature of Palestinian nationalism.