Around the time that the 47 Congressional Republicans invited Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to speak to Congress, I engaged in an exchange on Politico with a fellow-traveller over this event.  It was a fairly benign exchange and my antagonist was neither a troll nor a flamer.  In fact, he (“he,” my assumption from his screen name) seemed rational and intelligent, a condition not always the case with online commentators.

I’m not sure how we got into the “establishment of Israel” vs. the “there is no such thing as Palestine” debate, but we did.  The exchange pricked a memory of ninth grade World History class at Greece Olympia High School where, so I seemed to recall, we discussed this very issue.  Now you might assume that a fifty-year-old memory of mine is suspect, and you would be correct in such assumption nearly 100% of the time. 

But here’s the kicker.  As an architect, my brain stores pictures and images, a very helpful neurological process for architects, but said brain is totally immune to storing any aural input which (apparently) is why I am so bad at learning Hindi from Rosetta Stone.  What I remembered, in this case, was a map that our teacher, Ms. Shapiro,* affixed to the blackboard of the Middle East prior to World War I with the lettering “PALESTINE” prominently depicting a portion of this area of the world.  I can still see this image. 

So I was pretty sure that I was correct in arguing that, yes, indeed, there was a place called Palestine prior to (as my antagonist argued) the 1968 Israeli-Palestinian War.   After four or five exchanges I decided to do some research (actually a single Google search for the Balfour Declaration that began the movement for the establishment of Israel) thinking that it might put the issue to rest.  I reproduce the document in its entirety here:

The Balfour Declaration

Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,

Arthur James Balfour

Following my posting of the text of the Balfour Declaration I was met with abject silence.  No “Thanks for clearing that up for me;” no apology; no acknowledgement that I had been correct; no thank you for setting the record straight.   Just silence.  Now I have no idea whether Mr. Palestine Denier now believes – after being shown the hard, irrefutable, factual evidence – that, indeed, Palestine really did exist prior to 1968 and is not just some sort of fiction ginned up by the anti-Israel crowd and Middle East Arabs. 

My best guess is probably not.  It’s how conservatives operate. 


* Ms. Shapiro was the cause of my one and only detention during my public school travels from Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade.   My offense?  “adjusting the “climatic conditions” (her words) in our classroom.  Our World History class was in the afternoon and the sun poured through the windows so I lowered the blinds before she arrived.  Yeah, weird right?  She and I did not get along. 


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