20 June 2003

Rewriting history for political purposes

I recall hearing about this book when it came out, but at that time I didn't quite pick up on its political implications: Kamal Salibi's Did the Bible Come from Arabia?, published in 1984. Salibi argues that the original promised land to which Moses led the children of Israel was in Asir in southern Arabia. He derived his theory by matching biblical place names with the names of known cities in Asir. Apparently the Jews did not go to Palestine until after the Babylonian exile. It's all very clever and it seems to be one of a number of Bible conspiracy theories. The positive references to Immanuel Velikovsky do not exactly help its claim to credibility.

Lest we dismiss it too quickly, however, we should note that this theory seems to be part of mainstream history as taught in schools in the Arab world. All of this is part of an obvious effort to discount the Jewish/Israeli claim to Palestine. Yet if this is so, then the theory's proponents have missed its obvious political implication: Israel should relocate to southern Arabia! It seems that someone has yet to connect the dots.

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