Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

December 7, 2010

Israelis and Palestinians: Negotiating History

By David K. Shipler

If you think you know your biblical history, think again. Leading Palestinians have been revising the Old and New Testaments for years, subtracting Jews from ancient Jerusalem even as Jews today assert their Right of Return to the holy city.

This is the centerpiece of a broader revisionism that threatens the peace process, and American, Israeli, and Palestinian negotiators can’t ignore it and hope to make progress. They usually concentrate on the Little Story, but they need to address the Big Story. The Little Story is about drawing borders, swapping acreage, and arranging security between Israel and a Palestinian state. The Big Story is the historical narrative—actually two historical narratives—that produce the deepest yearning and the hardest questions: 1) How will Jerusalem be shared? and 2) Will Jews and Arabs give up their Right of Return to the lands held by their opponents? Once back at the table, negotiators might consider tackling them first, and not putting them aside as they’ve tended to do for nearly two decades of intermittent talks.