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Richard Sherman Letter to Royal Ontario Museum Trustees

October 2, 2023

Dear Royal Ontario Museum Trustees:

The Visual Arts are subjective as is the case with your present exhibition entitled "Being and Belonging: Contemporary Women Artists From the Islamic World and Beyond". However that subjectivity can morph into antisemitism as was the case in Nazi Germany as is the case with two of ROM's current exhibits entitled "Our Act of Possession" and "Eternal Love Song" by Sama Alshaibi.

For ROM to use the description "forced migration" and "'Palestinian people's dispossession of their homes and displacement from their land since 1948" to accompany these pieces demonstrates a total unfamiliarity with Middle East history. Otherwise ROM would know that there is no such thing as "Palestinian land" because in recorded history there has been no such country as "Palestine".

“Palestine” was the Roman designation of an area, not a country, designed to obliterate 1500 years of indigenous Jewish culture. For nearly 1000 years up until World War One, the name Palestine did not appear on any map.

ROM further ignores the fact that Article 80 of the United Nations Charter, an international treaty to which Canada was a founding signatory--which incorporates by reference the 1922 Palestine Mandate and the 1920 San Remo Agreement--declares all of what is Israel including Judea and Samaria to be the reconstituted homeland of the Jewish people recognizing the Jewish people's 3500 year ancestral presence on the land and the land as sovereign Jewish territory. Simply put one cannot annex or occupy one's own sovereign territory.

As Eugene Rostow, Dean of Yale Law School (1955-1965) and Under Secretary of State in a Democratic administration(1965-1969) wrote:

"Legally the West Bank and Gaza are unallocated parts of the Palestine Mandate...and as far as the claims of the Arabs who live there goes, it must be remembered that, in contrast to other League of Nations mandates, the Palestine Mandate was not established as a trust for the indigenous population of the area, to be terminated when the population was ready for self-government.

It was set up under a different article of the League Covenant as a trust for the Jewish people, in recognition of their historic connection to the land on the condition that the civic and religious rights of the Muslims and Christians be respected.

"Moreover the right of the Jewish people to settle in the West Bank has never been terminated...Jewish settlement in the West Bank exercise of a right protected by Article 80 of the United Nations Charter and hence necessarily part of the domestic law of the West Bank".

Eugene Rostow, Commentary Magazine, October, 1989.

There was the the British Mandate for Palestine (1920-1948) -- a TRUST not a country. In fact the Arabs have rejected an independent state whether called Palestine or anything else in 1947, 1948, 1967, 1994, 2000, 2008, 2019 and 2020....all of them two state solutions which the Jewish people of Israel accepted. The Palestinian Authority is not a country. Opining for non-existent "Palestinian lands" does not change history.

On November 30, 1947 when the Arabs rejected an independent state, their leader Nazi war criminal the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini, commanded the Arabs to: "Murder the Jews. Murder all of them". Since then the Arabs have -- to use the Grand Mufti's terminology - murdered over 28,400 Jews.

It is unlikely that ROM or the artist, Sama Alshaibi born in 1973, know as much about the "Palestinian people" as a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Zuheir Mohsen, a member of the Executive Committee of the PLO and a military commander of the PLO, in an interview in 1977 with the Dutch newspaper TROUW declared the Palestinian people to be a propaganda invention:

"The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct 'Palestinian people' to oppose Zionism.”

"For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we claim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan".

(The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Spencer, 2019, pp 95-96; See also: Can 'The Whole World' Be Wrong? Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism and Global Jihad, by Richard Landes, 2022, p.198).

Finally concerning the "Nakba", even a cursory glance at contemporaneous Arab and Muslim newspapers and other Muslim media makes clear that it was Arab leaders in 1947-1948 who commanded the local Arab population in Mandatory Palestine to “flee” their homes in anticipation of the genocide of the Jews—and an Arab populace who obeyed that command. (The Palestinian Delusion by Robert Spencer, 2019)

On April 3, 1949 the Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station reported: “It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees’ flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem”.

On October 12, 1963 the Egyptian daily Akbar el Yom reported that: “The 15th May, 1948 arrived…On that day the Mufti of Jerusalem ( the Grand Mufti Amin al-Husseini) appealed to the Arabs of Palestine to leave the country, because the Arab armies were about to enter and fight in their stead”.

On April 9, 1953 the Jordanian daily Al Urdan reported: “For the flight and fall of the other villages it is our leaders who are responsible because of their dissemination of rumours exaggerating Jewish crimes and describing them as atrocities in order to inflame the Arabs..By spreading rumours of Jewish atrocities, killings of women and children etc., they instilled fear and terror in the hearts of the Arabs in Palestine, until they fled leaving their homes and properties to the enemy”.

Even the contemporaneous reporting of The Economist makes clear that the alleged “Nakba’ was self-inflicted. On October 3, 1948 The Economist reported: “Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit…It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades”.

On August 19, 1951 the Beirut weekly Kul-Shay opined: “Who brought the Palestinians to Lebanon as refugees, suffering now the malign attitude of newspapers and communal leaders, who have neither honor not conscience? Who brought them over in dire straits and penniless, after they lost their homes? The Arab states, and Lebanon amongst them, did it”.

The Arab National Committee in Jerusalem, following the Arab Higher Committee’s March 8, 1948 orders, instructed women, children, and the elderly living in Jerusalem to leave their homes: “Any opposition to this order…is an obstacle to the holy war…and will hamper the operations of the fighters in these districts.”

Furthermore, the Jordanian newspaper Filastin on February 19, 1949 stated: “The Arab States encouraged the Palestine Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies, have failed to keep their promise to help these refugees.”

The Syrian Prime Minister in 1948–49, Haled al Azm, also openly acknowledged the Arabs’ role in persuading the refugees to leave: “Since 1948 we have been demanding the return of the refugees to their homes. But we ourselves are the ones who encouraged them to leave.”

Also the term “nabka” originates with Syrian professor and intellectual Constantin Zureiq. In August 1948 he first used term nakba as “a self-inflicted and humiliating wound caused by the Arabs themselves”. (Israel: A Simple Guide To The Most Misunderstood Country On Earth, page 114, Noa Tishby, 2021; Ms. Tishby in 2022 was appointed Israel’s Special Envoy to fight Antisemitism and the Delegitimization of Israel).

Zureiq’s own words make clear that “the Nakba” has nothing to do with Israel or the Jews:

“When the battle broke out, our public diplomacy to speak of our imaginary victories, to put the Arab public to sleep and talk of the ability to overcome and win easily—until the Nakba happened. We must admit our mistakes…and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot". (Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth, Ibid, page 114; see also: " Can ' The Whole World's Be Wrong? Lethal Journalism, Antisemitism and Global Jihad (2022)", Richard Landes, page 195.)

Only after 1968 did the antisemites of the PLO encouraged by the KGB and their Jew hating allies on the Left pervert Zureiq’s clear meaning and make the Jews the villain.

One would be remiss not to mention that Ms Alshaibi appears to have never learned the definition of “refugee”. Every legitimate dictionary in the world defines refugee as a person who has fled their home because of religious or political persecution. FLED is the operative word.

The 1948 war in which five Arab armies representing millions and millions of Arabs attempted to annihilate the Jewish population (700,000) of the tiny nascent state of Israel ended in 1949. Any Arab refugee from that conflict has to be at least 74 years old or older. Of course, if they were ten years old when they fled, they would have to be 84 today. If they were twenty years old when they fled, they would have to be 94 today. It is unlikely throughout the entire world there are more than ten thousand Arab “refugees” from that conflict still alive. There may be many many fewer.

The millions of Palestinian Arabs living in Judea and Samaria (referred to as the West Bank) and Gaza described by Ms Alshaibi, the mainstream media and others as “Palestinian refugees” are not refugees…They are residents of where they were born: the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and Gaza. They did not flee from anywhere. It is not complicated. IF YOU DID NOT FLEE, YOU ARE NOT A REFUGEE.

Ms Alshaibi, the mainstream media and others as part of an antisemitic mindset attempt to create undeserved sympathy for Arabs who are not refugees by calling them “Palestinian refugees” and at the same time attempt to generate opprobrium against the Jewish people of Israel with the false implication that Israel “created” these millions of non-existent “Palestinian refugees.”

It is as ludicrous for Ms Alshaibi, the mainstream media and others to call these residents of Judea and Samaria and Gaza “Palestinian refugees” as it would be for them to call a Jew born in Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver or Newfoundland in 1970 a “Polish refugee” because his or her Polish grandparents fled persecution in Poland in the 1930s.

This continued willful blindness to the ONLY legitimate definition of refugee is pure antisemitism and nothing else. Unfortunately ROM has provided its imprimatur to this antisemitic balderdash.

Richard Sherman, Florida

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