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A History of the Palestinian People

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A History of the Palestinian People
A History of the Palestinian People
A History of the Palestinian People
AuthorAssaf Voll
Original titleA History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era
TranslatorAlan Slater (English)
CountryUnited States / Israel
LanguageEnglish, Hebrew
Subjectempty book
PublisherCreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication date
June 12, 2017
Media typePrint (Paperback)
Pages132 (English), 120 (Hebrew)
ISBN978-1546831242
Websitepalhistory.com

A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era is an empty book by Assaf Voll that uses blank pages to suggest that Palestinians have no history, based on a false argument that a group may only call itself "a people" if it has always existed.[1] It has continued to circulate on social media among the Israeli right-wing.[2]

It was published in paperback and digital formats in 2017, and most of its contents are blank pages.[3] The book rose in Amazon.com's best-selling titles in the category of "Israel and Palestine History", reaching second place[a] before it was pulled from sale by Amazon. Its publication has been described as a "cruel joke".[4] The incident has been said to signify "the continued vitality of a more enduring political, social and cultural impulse to abrogate Palestinian history and identity - on the part of Israel, and by extension, among its Western allies."[2]

Contents summary

Besides the front cover, back cover, and title page the book contains a quote attributed to the Seinfeld character George Costanza: "Just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it." The rest of its pages are blank.[5] The Hebrew version of 120 pages is shorter than the 132-page English version. Voll said that a planned German version will be significantly longer.[6]

Composition and publication

Voll is a columnist for Israeli publications, and involved in public relations and advertising. Holding an M.A. in Jewish Studies from Haifa University, Voll has also lectured at the university as an external lecturer.[7][8]

The book was described by its author as "a fruit of many years of research" and "the most comprehensive and extensive review of some 3,000 years of Palestinian history, with emphasis on the Palestinian people's unique contribution to the world and to humanity".[9] Interviewed on the Kol Chai radio station, Voll stated that "The Palestinian people believe they are a people, and someone needs to tell them the truth even if it hurts. Look what happens when they were given the feeling that they are a real people."[5][9][7][10][11]

Reception

Support

The publication was received with both humor and anti-Palestinian commentary in elements of the Israeli and American media.[citation needed]

Promoted by American weekly The Jewish Press, the book also received positive user reviews and rankings. It sold well for books related to the Middle East on Amazon.com, quickly reaching the second place[a] in the category of "Israel and Palestine History", and 9th in "Middle East History".[12][8][13][14] Positive reviews appeared on Jewish Press, Jewish Voice, Channel 20 (Israel), Arutz 7, Hamodia, "Kipa" and "Srugim" .[8][12][14][15]


A review by Israeli Channel 20 wrote "in the 120 pages in his new book Voll surveys and analyzes step by step the annals of Palestinian history from the ancient era to the modern one. The reader will be surprised from the first moment and won't be able to leave the book until reaching the end".[15]

Addressing Arab members of Knesset in a speech, deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tzipi Hotovely held up the Tanakh in one hand and A History of the Palestinian People in the other saying "I recommend to UNESCO and to the Arab Knesset members to read these two books, the Bible which tells the story of the Jewish people, and Assaf Voll's new bestseller, A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era. It will captivate you because it is empty. Because the Palestinians don't have kings and they don't have heritage sites".[16][17] In a later interview Hotovely has said that the book is a wonderful PR exercise and that while there is definitely an Arab, Ottoman and Muslim history, the Palestinians were never a nation and that the basis of the Palestinian narrative is denying the Jewish one, by disseminating lies and attempting to rewrite history.[18]

Criticism

The publication was heavily criticized as racist, with organizations such as IfNotNow asking their followers to contact Amazon and complain.[19][20][21] The book faced some customer complaints and low ratings on Amazon.[13]

In a column published by Mondoweiss, Jonathan Cook wrote that the book had antecedents, in 1969, Golda Meir declared to the world: “There was no such thing as Palestinians" and that in 1984 the book From Time Immemorial claimed Palestinians were recent economically motivated immigrants. Furthermore, Cook wrote "Israelis have been only too happy to make the Palestinians vanish."[22]

Joshua Shanes writing in Haaretz said that nations are a result of modernity and that "no nation—as we currently understand and use the term—dates to antiquity, not even the Jews."[23] According to Shanes the formation of Palestinian nationhood occurred lockstep with the formation of Jewish nationhood in the 19th century, but this does not say either are "invented" and that in any event the Palestinians today, regardless of their historical origin, are a nation. An attempt to deny the existence of the opposing side is a path to irreconcilable conflict.[23] In a separate review on Haaretz it was claimed that "The author's argument that the Palestinians are not a people because they are void of history isn't new – it's a mainstay of the Israeli right".[5]

In an article in The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Professor Steven Weitzman of the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies said that Voll's book is Shlomo Sand's The Invention of the Jewish People argument in reverse applied to Palestinians instead of Jews. Weitzman further said "What was offensive about the book is that it is completely blank, the author’s way of arguing that the Palestinians are not a real people and have no real history—an argument that other scholars have made in more conventional ways".[24]

Ahmed Dabesh in Lebanese daily Al Akhbar wrote that Voll didn't mention that the "Zionist entity" was born out of aggression against the Palestinians and the rape of their land, attacked the Zionist Archaeology policy, and asserted that the Palestinians have roots dating back until at least the Stone Age, 4000 BCE (sic).[25]

Conversely, on Arab News Network it was claimed the Palestinians have Canaanite roots dating back at least 4500 years, and that the book is an unsuccessful response to the Occupied Palestine Resolution in UNESCO.[26]

A review in Al-Modon said that Israel is empty as the book is empty, that the book is part of continuing Zionist methodology of claiming that Palestine is a land without a people, the same methodology that led the Zionists to steal the Palestinian cuisine and claim worldwide that hummus and falafel are Israeli inventions.[27]

A review in the Egyptian Youm7 said the book is part of a continuing provocation and fabrication against the Arab identity of the Palestinian people, the Palestinian land, and the holy places.[28]

A report in Al Mayadeen said that the publication of the empty book underscores the need for resistance and protest on Quds Day.[29]

An An-Najah National University publication said the book was written from a vantage point of supposed "superiority" and exhibits the "innermost subconscious of the Israeli methodology" and that furthermore American conscious and unconscious sympathy to Israel arises from the American genocide of Native Americans as exhibited by Munir Akash's book, "America and genocides – the right to sacrifice the other".[30]

The Bosnian newspaper Oslobođenje, in an article on the Palestinian-Israel anniversaries marked in 2017 said that the book is not just a distant echo of Golda Meir's statement "there is no such thing as Palestinians", but also the attitude of the current right-wing Israeli politicians, despite Palestine gaining recognition by the United Nations.[31]

Removal from sale

Amazon stopped selling the book in June 2017, removing it entirely from their site, though the book remained on sale elsewhere.[32][33][34] Amazon in a letter to Voll said:

During a quality assurance review of your CSP catalogue, we found that your book(s) are resulting in a disappointing customer experience. Indicators of a poor customer experience may include customer refunds and feedback. As a result, the following book(s) have been removed from sale on Amazon.[13]

In response, Voll said that there were other blank books on sale in Amazon, giving the best-seller Reasons To Vote For Democrats as an example, that there was no intention to deceive anyone regarding the contents of the book, and that some of the poor customer feedback was due to a campaign by anti-Israel activists such as the website "Welcome to Palestine".[35][13][36]

The book reached 16th place in sales on the Barnes & Noble site,[37] before being removed from sale from this site as well.

Notes

  1. ^ a b It is possible the book reached #1 briefly (just before the sale stopped), as there are multiple less reliable sources claiming this (including screenshots), however reliable source attribution for the #1 claim is lacking whereas #2 is well sourced.

References

  1. ^ "Empty book on Palestinian history becomes instant best-seller on Amazon - Palestinians". Haaretz.com. 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2021-11-21. The argument used by the Israeli right seems to imply that a group may only call itself "a people" if it has always existed, which is false because all peoples have at one point or another come into being.
  2. ^ a b Holman, Zoe (2020). "A National Museum for a People without a Land". Art of Minorities: Cultural Representation in Museums of the Middle East and North Africa. Alternative Histories. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-1-4744-4379-1. Retrieved 2021-11-21. The book was removed from Amazon's site soon afterwards, but continued to circulate to abundant glee in the chambers of social media, with the applause in the chambers of social media, with the applause emanating predominantly from the right of the Israeli political spectrum. Though a short-lived source of public titillation, the incident signified the continued vitality of a more enduring political, social and cultural impulse to abrogate Palestinian history and identity - on the part of Israel, and by extension, among its Western allies. Such a tradition was aptly articulated more than thirty years ago in Edward Said's observation that 'the Palestinian narrative has never been officially admitted to Israeli history, except as that of “non-Jews”, whose inert presence in Palestine was a nuisance to be ignored or expelled.’
  3. ^ Peled, Daniella (6 October 2017). "How a new museum tells Palestine's story". Prospect. Retrieved 23 February 2018.
  4. ^ Kovalik, Dan (2021). Cancel This Book: The Progressive Case Against Cancel Culture. Hot Books. p. 200. ISBN 978-1-5107-6499-6. Retrieved 2021-11-21. Not content to merely wipe out the Palestinian people, Israel is also bent on destroying their cultural heritage, even going so far as to claim that the Palestinians have no heritage or history of their own to begin with. Indeed, a book last year which quickly shot to number one in Amazon's “Middle East History” category, before being pulled from the website, was A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era by Israel author Assaf Voll. This book, which purposes to be “the comprehensive and extensive review of some 3,000 years of Palestinian history,” consisted of 120 blank pages - a cruel joke attempting to show that the Palestinians have no history.
  5. ^ a b c "Empty Book on Palestinian History Becomes Instant Best-seller on Amazon". Haaretz. 22 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Now on Amazon: a History Book on the Palestinian People with Blank Pages". Srugim (in Hebrew). 18 June 2017.
  7. ^ a b New Book On Palestinian History: 120 Blank Pages, Breaking News Israel, Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, June 19, 2017
  8. ^ a b c New Book on Palestinian History Gets Rave Reviews, HaModia, Dov Benovadia, 20 June 2017
  9. ^ a b The Secret Behind Bestseller on Palestinian History, JPost, Joy Bernard, June 21, 2017
  10. ^ New Israeli Book: the History of the Palestinian People (in Hebrew), Mako, Ehud Kinan, 19 June 2017
  11. ^ For Sale: Palestinian History Book – with Empty Pages, nrg news, 19 June 2017
  12. ^ a b Palestinian history – is there such a thing?, Arutz7, Mordechai Sones, 19 June 2017
  13. ^ a b c d Amazon removes controversial bestseller about Palestinian history, Jerusalem Post, Joy Bernard, 28 June 2017
  14. ^ a b JewishPress.com Pushes 'A History of the Palestinian People' to Top Amazon Ranking, Jewish Press, 19 June 2017
  15. ^ a b A New Book Surveys the History of the Palestinian People (in Hebrew), Channel20 (Israel), Bat El Binyamin, 19 June 2017
  16. ^ Hotovely to Arab MKs: You are thieves of history[permanent dead link], Arutz7, 13 July 2017
  17. ^ ‘You are thieves of history!’ Hotovely tells Palestinians, waving books at them, Mondoweiss, Jonathan Ofir, July 16, 2017
  18. ^ Tzipi Hotovely: "The Political world doesn't accept mothers. I could've been a minister but I'm only a vice-Minister", At Magazine, Hadas Bashan, 13 August 2017
  19. ^ Amazon sells racist blank book on Palestinian history, Welcome To Palestine, 22 June 2017
  20. ^ Amazon removes racist book after international outrage, Welcome To Palestine, 23 June 2017
  21. ^ Israeli Denialist Hoax Tops Amazon List, Palestine Square, June 23, 2017, Khelil Bouarrouj
  22. ^ Cook, Jonathan Israel's efforts to hide Palestinians from view no longer fools young American Jews, Mondoweiss, 27 June 2017
  23. ^ a b "Why the Jewish Right Is Foolish to Celebrate the Empty Palestinian History 'Book'". Haaretz. 25 June 2016.
  24. ^ The Origins of the Jews exchange, part 2: On the gaps between the Jewish public and the scholars, The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Shmuel Rosner, 5 July 2017]
  25. ^ Palestinians in Empty Pages (Arabic), Ahmed Dabesh, 3 July 2017
  26. ^ Israeli Presents Empty Book on Palestinians in Amazon (Arabic), ANN, June 2017
  27. ^ The Book is Empty... Israel itself is Empty (Arabic), Al-Modon, Mohamed Hajira, 30 June 2017
  28. ^ The Full Story of the Empty Tel-Aviv Book (Arabic), Youm7, Ahmad Ibrahim Al-Sharif, 25 June 2017
  29. ^ The Israeli History Book Erases the Palestinian History, Al-Mayadeen, 24 June 2017
  30. ^ Israeli executed words in his book "the history of the Palestinian people" .. leaves empty !!, nn.ps, 8 July 2017
  31. ^ Israel never better, never worse Palestinians, Oslobođenje 15 July 2017
  32. ^ An empty book on "the history of the Palestinian people", best selling on Amazon, I24News, 23 June 2017 update 24 June
  33. ^ the Palestinians Complained: Amazon Removes "Trolling" Book (in Hebrew), Srugin, Efi Avraham, 23 June 2017
  34. ^ Wajahat, Ali (June 2018). "A Muslim Among Israeli Settlers". The Atlantic. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
  35. ^ Amazon Takes Down Best-selling Book on Palestinian History Containing Only Blank Pages, Haaretz, 29 June 2017
  36. ^ Amazon takes bestseller which denies Palestinian history from the market (in Dutch), de Volkskrant, Rolf Bos, 29 June 2017
  37. ^ Sugarman, Daniel (June 29, 2017). "Blank 'History of the Palestinians' book removed from Amazon". The Jewish Chronicle.