Zionist Myths: Israeli Invention of National Symbols

Israeli far-right politician May Golan at a Flag March in Jerusalem, in 2021. (Photo: Adi Hodefi, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Jamal Kanj

The absence of an authentic Israeli national memory made it crucial for political Zionism to construct a convoluted web of deception by appropriating national symbols.

If a random group of highly educated individuals were asked who established the city of Jerusalem, some might plead ignorance, but most would likely answer King David. After all, it’s ostensibly known as the City of David.

This example demonstrates how unchallenged legends, originating from non-historical documents like religious texts, can shape the sophistical historical narratives. This article will delve into major Zionist wonted myths that are accepted at face value in the West.

The organic development of nations relies on several factors: mainly national symbols that form an important part of the national memory, distinct cultural heritage, belonging, territory, values, customs, traditions, language, and social behaviors. These elements evolve gradually and are transmitted over generations, forming the foundation of nationhood.

However, the development of the State of Israel followed an unconventional path. The political Zionist movement took a reverse approach by occupying the territory, first, bypassing the natural process of generational development and appropriating various aspects of the local surface culture, including national symbols.

Israeli leaders often assert, for instance, that Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3000 years. In the West, the veracity of such a claim is not questioned, either out of ignorance, religious accommodation, or outright fear of being accused of “antisemitism” for challenging Zionist narratives. This organized intimidation is the primary reason why critical thinking in the West often fails to challenge Israeli accounts.

As a result, only a few are aware that the city of Jerusalem served as the capital of the original Palestinians for over 6000 years, long before it was occupied by Jewish tribes from Mesopotamia. Historical and archaeological evidence points to the Phoenician Canaanites, the ancestors of today’s Palestinians, as the first human settlement in Jerusalem in the 4th millennium BCE. The Jebusites, a Canaanite tribe, referred to the small town on the hill as “Urushalim.” The name is a portmanteau term blending the words “uru,” meaning “founded by,” and “Shalem,” the Phoenician Canaanite god of dusk, hence, “Urushalim.”

Consequently, the most well-known Israeli national symbol, Jerusalem, was not the City of David. In fact, it was built 3000 years before David’s birth, and was dedicated to the Canaanite god of dusk, Shalem, not Avraham’s Elohim. Israel and Zionism adopted a variation from the Canaanite lexicon, calling the city “Yerushaláyim,” implying a Hebrew association with the original name.

The Zionist appropriation of national symbols is so pervasive that I, too, once fell for this misconception, mistakenly believing that “Urushalim” had a Hebrew origin. I recall hearing a Christian priest in Lebanon refer to Jerusalem as “Urushalim,” instead of its Arabic name, “Al Quds.” At the time, I failed to realize that the priest was using the original Canaanite name, reminding us that modern Zionists appropriated the name “Urushalim” when the city was occupied in the 10th century BC and again in the 20th century AD.

In addition to the historically forged claim of being the “eternal capital,” another iconic national symbol that has been falsely portrayed as exclusively “Jewish” is the six-pointed star in the Israeli flag. Contrary to popular belief, the hexagram in the Israeli flag is not solely a Jewish symbol. Prior to its association with Judaism in 17th-century Eastern Europe, the earliest Jewish usage of the symbol was inherited from medieval Arabic literature by Kabbalists for use in talismanic protective amulets.

The symbol was also used in Christian churches as a decorative motif many centuries before its first known use in a Jewish synagogue. Israeli historian Shlomo Sand’s book, “The Invention of The Land of Israel,” explains that the Star of David is not an ancient Jewish symbol but has its origins in the Indian subcontinent, where it was extensively used by various religious and military cultures.

The two equilateral triangles can still be found today in the stunningly intricate mother-of-pearl inlay work featuring hexagrams as part of mosaic designs on walnut chairs, tables, and wooden boxes in present-day Syria. This exquisite art form dates back thousands of years in the city of Damascus, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city.

Another symbol that lacks inherent religious significance in history is the so-called “Western Wall.” The wall is not an internal structure and cannot be part of a building. Rather, it is an exterior embankment supporting higher ground (Haram el Sharif/ Noble Sanctuary) and an extension of the defensive exterior wall surrounding the Old City, which predates the Jewish presence in the city. The approximately 2.5-mile-long and 40-foot-high fortification wall was reconstructed between 1537 and 1541 under Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I.

Jews who assimilated within Palestinian culture but maintained their religious beliefs lived in Palestine, including Jerusalem, alongside their Muslim and Christian compatriots for centuries. Throughout history, before the advent of the Western Christian Messianic movement and the birth of political Zionism, there are no historical records indicating that the Western fortification wall was used as a prayer site. The west side of the wall only became a religious attraction in the seventeenth century, driven by Christian religious devotees who wanted to hasten the return of the Messiah.

In an attempt to validate their delusional fantasies, successive Israeli governments have conducted extensive excavations beneath the Noble Sanctuary for over sixty years. However, they have yet to produce any archeological evidence pointing to a religious Jewish site.

In more recent history, it is little-known that the melody of the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” originally belonged to the World Zionist movement’s anthem and was adapted from the famous tune “Vltava” (My Homeland) by Czech composer Bedřich Smetana.

The absence of an authentic Israeli national memory made it crucial for political Zionism to construct a convoluted web of deception by appropriating national symbols and imbuing alternative facts that have become ingrained in the Western national discourse. By inculcating false narratives, legends, and fables into the mainstream, a new reality is shaped, or as Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels famously said, “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The latter could possibly explain the mutual adulation between Donald Trump, and his Hebrew version, Benjamin Netanyahu.

This is the third of a series of articles that will explore Zionist myths, artificial history, and made-up culture. For the first article, click here. For the second article, click here.

– Jamal Kanj is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America, and other books. He writes frequently on Arab world issues for various national and international commentaries. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle

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