Genesis, Rashi and the Land of Israel vs Canaan and Palestine
By Ariel Natan Pasko
In August 2019, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), reported on a video uploaded to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page, on August 10th, speaking at the Jalazun Refugee Camp near Ramallah. There he claimed, the “Palestinians,” are the Canaanites who have lived in Palestine for 5,000 years.
This isn’t really anything new, in February 2018, Abbas told the UN Security Council that PA residents are the direct descendants of the Canaanites.
“We are the descendants of the Canaanites who lived in the land of Palestine 5,000 years ago, and continuously remained there to this day. Our great people remains rooted in its land. The Palestinian people built their own cities and homeland, and made contributions to humanity and civilization,” he said.
In January 2018, Abbas claimed that 5,000 years ago, the whole Levant was inhabited by “Arab Canaanites,” whom he said were the ancestors of today’s Palestinian Arabs.
Abbas has claimed on several other occasions in the past, Canaanite origins.
So too has Saeb Erekat, former chief negotiator for the PA. In February 2014, he attacked then Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, before an audience in Germany. He claimed, “I am a son of Jericho. My age—10,000 years. I am a proud son of the Canaanites, and I was [here] 5,000 years ago, and 500 years before the coming of Joshua bin Nun, who burned my city, Jericho, and I will not trade in my history [because of a demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state].”
In other words, Erekat’s claimed “Canaanite” roots ensured him, that he didn’t have to recognize Jewish history, because his origins predate it. And, in any case, Joshua bin Nun, Erekat hinted, was a war criminal.
But his family’s genealogical website, states that Erekat’s family originates in the large Howeitat tribe.
In fact, the Howeitat, claim descent from a single ancestor, an Egyptian named Huwayt, from the 18th century.
Experts dismiss this “Canaanite theory” as historical revisionism, since the Canaanites, have long become extinct. Other “Palestinian” Arabs in the past, have claimed to be descendants of the Jebusites, who controlled Jerusalem until King David’s time. But, it is a historic fact, that Arabs actually only arrived in Israel in the 7th century CE.
The purpose of the “Canaanite” narrative, is not meant to shed light on the Palestinians’ real ancestry, but to deny the Jews’ narrative. Why the Canaanites? Because they were in the country before the Israelite tribes were and thus have precedence, according to them.
Fast forward, just a week ago, millions of Jews around Israel and the Jewish world, danced with Sefer Torahs for Simchat Torah. And, this past Shabbat, all across the Jewish world, the yearly Sabbath Torah reading began anew with Bereshit, the beginning of the Book of Genesis.
The most basic commentary on the Torah, printed in almost all Hebrew editions, is that of Rashi – Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki – the famous 11th century French Biblical and Talmudic commentator.
In the beginning, literally, of Genesis, Rashi asks a question, “Why does the Torah start with the story of creation? Since the Torah is a book of laws for the Jewish People, why doesn’t it begin with the first law given by God to the Jews, the law for establishing a calendar?”
He answers, the Torah starts with the creation narrative to establish that God is the Master of the Universe. Then, Rashi says the most amazing thing that still resonates almost a thousand years later.
Based on earlier sources and a thorough knowledge of the meaning of Judaism, Rashi quoting a midrash says, “So that if the nations of the world come to Israel and say, you are thieves – in Hebrew, She-Kevash-Tem (you conquered and occupied), the land from the seven Canaanite nations living there, you can tell them that all the universe is God’s, He created it and gave it to the nations, and when He decided, He took it from them and gave it to us.”
Three things have become starkly clear in our day:
First, that Rashi’s explanation of the Torah has in fact come true. Jews have returned to the Land of Israel, but the UN and many nations claim, as Rashi explained they would, that we stole the land from others, namely the so-called “Palestinians.”
Second, the Israeli Left uses the same Hebrew root/term – Kibush, occupation – to denigrate the miraculous victory of the 1967 Six-Day War. It is the same term, “occupation”, used by most of the world in their criticism of Israeli policies in the “territories,” Judea and Samaria.
Even Ariel Sharon used it at one point, to justify his withdrawal from Gaza. It is the language of self-hating Jews – those disconnected from Jewish history and tradition – and the Judeo-paths among the nations. Occupation is when you steal someone else’s land.
The Jewish People liberated parts of the Land of Israel, their promised ancestral homeland, in stages, first in 1948 and then in 1967 with God’s help. The Jewish People didn’t “steal” anything.
And finally, that the only permanent claim for the Jewish People to their homeland, is God’s promise as set down in the Bible; not just history or for security, but God’s promise to their forefathers. Only, being rooted in Jewish tradition, will guarantee long-term survival, as it did for nearly 2,000 years of exile.
Rashi told the Jewish People, “He took it from them and gave it to us.” And, that’s what every Jewish leader should continuously broadcast on the world stage.
A true Jewish leader needs to stand up, not frightened of Trump, Putin, the UN or anyone, and declare, “The Master of the Universe took it from them and gave it to us.” The Promised Land belongs to the Jews exclusively, and not to any other nation, because God gave it to them to live in.
Any Israeli prime minister who can’t get on TV, go to the UN General Assembly, or any other meeting with world leaders and say these words, should quit, before rejecting the promises of God and participating in a “peace process,” to help another group steal part of the Land of Israel from the Jewish people.
As King David said, “If I forget you Jerusalem” – a term for the entire Land of Israel – “let my right hand wither” – rather than sign any false peace agreement – “let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth….” (Psalms 137: 5-6) rather than agree to foreigners taking over part of the Jewish People’s homeland.
Why lie to the “Palestinians?” Why make them believe they are right, that Israel “stole their land,” by participating in a peace process? Why fool them into believing that Israel might give them land and a state? The God of Israel will never let that happen.
It doesn’t matter if Abbas claims to be a Canaanite. Whoever becomes prime minister, should tell them and the world the truth, “He took it from them and gave it to us.”
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko.
(c) 2019/5780 Pasko