A History of the Palestinian People
|Original title||A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era|
|Translator||Alan Slater (English)|
|Country||United States / Israel|
|Publisher||CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform|
|June 12, 2017|
|Media type||Print (Paperback)|
|Pages||132 (English), 120 (Hebrew)|
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. It was published in paperback and digital formats in 2017, and most of its contents are blank pages.
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. 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.
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.
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". 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."
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". Positive reviews appeared on pro-Jewish and right-leaning publications such as Jewish Press, Jewish Voice, Channel 20 (Israel), Arutz 7, Hamodia, "Kipa", "Srugim" and The Jerusalem Post.
Writing in the Jewish Voice Ari Lieberman wrote that this is "The only book on Palestinian History you will ever need to read" and surveyed the alleged lack of historicity of the Palestinian people, saying that the name Palestine itself was concocted by Hadrian following the Bar Kokhba revolt.
A review in Jewish Press wrote "The book provides an extensive and comprehensive review of 3000 years of Palestinian history", despite being empty.
Shimon Cohen from Artuz7 wrote "If you go through the pages of the book you will discover they are empty, a sign for the lack of Palestinian history from the pages of world history", questioning however the lack of coverage of "Acts of murder, killing, kidnapping of airplanes and people, and the like", that according to Voll occurred after the beginning of the modern era and are therefore omitted from the book.
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".
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". 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.
However, the book was also criticized by pro-Palestinians as racist, with organizations such as IfNotNow asking their followers to contact Amazon and complain. The book faced some customer complaints and low ratings on Amazon.
In a widely syndicated column Jonathan Cook wrote that the book as famous antecedents, in 1969, Golda Meir declared to the world: “There were no such thing as Palestinians" and that in 1984 the book From Time Immemorial claimed Palestinian were recent economically motivated immigrants. Furthermore, Cook wrote "Israelis have been only too happy to make the Palestinians vanish.", however this does not per Cook help Israel's cause among young American Jews that face a choice: "Will they conspire, if only through their silence, in the erasure of the Palestinians carried out by Israel in their name? Or will they stand and fight, in the occupied territories, on campus, in their communities and, soon enough, in the corridors of power in Washington?".
Joshua Shanes writing in Haaretz said that nations are a result of modernity and that not no nation, including the Jews, dates back to antiquity. 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. 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".
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".
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 stated that the Palestinians have roots dating back until at least the stone age, 4000 BCE.
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.
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.
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".
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.
In a piece in Ozy on Nazarethen archivist Ahmad Mrowat, Voll's book was presented as a demonstration of the importance of archival work attempting to retrieve evidence of the Palestinian people in the modern era.
Removal from sale
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.
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".
According to the Muqata blog on Jewish Press removal of the book was hypocritical as Amazon continues to sell The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and other materials calling for the erasure of Israel, including those that amount to calls for genocide. "Legal Insurrection", a conservative law blog, also said that banning the sale of the book wasn't justified, particularly since Amazon continues to sell other blank titles, Mein Kampf, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and "Free Palestine" merchandise. Conversely Tom Suarez on Mondoweiss wrote whereas the Protocols claim is correct and that one could argue that Amazon is in fact a "common utility", but that " History of the Palestinian People is explicitly intended to reinforce the dehumanization of an entire people in order to grease the machinery of subjugation and ethnic cleansing". Responding to the continuing sale of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Amazon said "Amazon strongly believes that providing open access to written speech, no matter how hateful or ugly, is one of the most important things we do. And because we think the best remedy for offensive speech is more speech, we also make available to readers the ability to make their own voices heard and express their views about this and all our titles in reviews and ratings".
- 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.
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