יום רביעי, דצמבר 07, 2005

My case for Israel - Part II

Please feel free to read my introduction to Part I.
{NOTE: This post covers history until the rise of Zionism as a movement in the 1870's}

What is the Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel?

I think we'll have two parts to this section. Who was there, and Who wasn't there. I'm going to try to go as far back as I can and move from there forward until the modern return to Israel. Again, in the name of honesty I will work with recorded fact and try to keep my bias out of this.

Historical sources are Josephus Flavius (Roman-Jewish Historian ~100CE), the Old Testament, and archaeological records. A note on the archaeological records: as far back as 500BCE we have lots of finds. Prior to that, only a small amount of verified antiquities have been found. I think you'll find that for the purposes of our discussion 2500 years of reliable history should suffice.

Who was there?

Approx 1900BCE, a man called Abraham moved from a city called Ur (in present day Iran) to a land called Cana'an. The land was called Cana'an because the people living there were the Canaanite tribe. Abraham establishes himself in the land, buys property, befriends the locals, and settles down. {Presumably he does this because of a promise from God that it would one day all belong to his children. But that's not our focus.} He has two sons, Ishmael and Issac. Abraham chooses Issac as his heir, Ishmael is sent away with the promise that he too will be great. Issac remains in the land (still referred to as Cana'an). He also has two sons, Esau and Jacob. Jacob is chosen as Issac's heir and Esau is sent away. Jacob's family leaves the land because of a famine and descends to Egypt. At the time(1700BCE), Egypt was the world power and had storehouses of food. Jacobs family remains in Egypt for about 300 years and then leave moving back towards the land called Cana'an.

At the time there were many different nations living in this "promised land" as it's geographical location and it's coastal ports made it the crossroads between Asia, Europe, and Africa.

The Hebrews (over 3 million people by then) entered the Land of Israel about 1300BCE, and conquered the land from the kings living there. For a detailed description of these conquest-oriented wars please read the Book of Joshua. They divided the land according to tribes and lived under a tribal confederation until being united under the first monarch, King Saul.

During this tribal period, the Philistines, an Aegean people, in the 12th Century BCE, settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain especially in the south (what is now the Gaza Strip). Records of the wars with the Philistines can be found the books Judges I & II.

The second king, David, completed the conquest of the land, established borders, and established Jerusalem as the capital city around 1000 B.C.E. His palace can be seen today in the Silwan valley, just outside of Jerusalem's Old City.

David's son, Solomon built the Temple on what is today know as the "Temple Mount" and consolidated the military, administrative and religious functions of the kingdom. The nation was divided under Solomon's son, with the northern kingdom (Israel) lasting until 722 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the southern kingdom (Judah) surviving until the Babylonian conquest in 586 B.C.E. The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterward before most Jews were finally driven from their homeland in 135 C.E.

From the initial conquest of the land by Joshua until the Babylonian rule, Jewish independence in the Land of Israel lasted for more than 400 years. This is longer than Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States. In fact, if not for foreign conquerors (and unfortunate infighting), Israel would be 3,000 years old today.

Let's keep going with the time-line, I hope you're not bored yet. There is very little that's worse than a history class.

A few more dates. 460BCE - Jews are permitted to return to Israel and gain limited sovereignty. A second Temple is built. The walls that today stand around the temple mount are the walls from the second temple. Jewish life was renewed in the land and today we have alot of archaeological evidence from this time period. As noted, the strip of land that was then known as Judea was a crossroads and a coveted bit of real-estate. In 70CE the Roman empire destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem and began exiling the residents of the land. exile was common practice so that people would not revolt against the ruling powers. I think Machiavelli recommends this as well. Coins were minted "Judea Captura" and the famous relief in Rome of the Roman soldiers carrying off vessels of the Jewish Temple. In an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the land of Israel, after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans applied the name Palaestina to Judea. The name was most likely taken from the Aegean tribe, the Philistines.

A common misconception is that all the Jews were forced into the Diaspora by the Romans after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 C.E. and then, 1,800 years later, suddenly returned demanding their country back. In reality, the Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years.

Even after the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in the Land of Israel continued and often flourished. By the 9th century large communities were reestablished in Jerusalem and Tiberius. In the 11th century, Jewish communities grew in Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea. The Jewish presence in Israel over the last 2000 years is already a matter of historical documentation. There are manuscripts that have been found and buildings with distinct Jewish characteristics. The archaeological record from Masada to mosaics clearly depicts Jewish life in the Land of Israel.

Throughout the years of exile, Jewish people have always held a connection to their land. They have not been absorbed into other countries or cultures. Prayer has always been in the direction of Jerusalem and remembrance of the destroyed land features in almost every religious event. The Jewish community in Israel was not large during these years but it was always there.

The Crusaders massacred many Jews during the 12th century, but the community rebounded in the next two centuries as large numbers of rabbis and Jewish pilgrims immigrated to Jerusalem and the Galilee. Prominent rabbis established communities in Safed, Jerusalem and elsewhere during the next 300 years. By the early 19th century — years before the birth of the modern Zionist movement — more than 10,000 Jews lived throughout what is today Israel.

That is the story of "Who was there?". Now let's ask the question: "Who was not there?"

As much as I hold my own writing in high esteem, a fellow by the name of Yehezkel Bin-Nun answers this question better than I could:

"The general impression given in the media is that Palestinians have lived in the Holy Land for hundreds, if not thousands of years. No wonder, then, that a recent poll of French citizens shows that the majority believe (falsely) that prior to the establishment of the State of Israel an independent Arab Palestinian state existed in its place. Yet curiously, when it comes to giving the history of this "ancient" people most news outlets find it harder to go back more than the early nineteen hundreds. CNN, an agency which has devoted countless hours of airtime to the "plight" of the Palestinians, has a website which features a special section on the Middle East conflict called "Struggle For Peace". It includes a promising sounding section entitled "Lands Through The Ages" which assures us it will detail the history of the region using maps. Strangely, it turns out, the maps displayed start no earlier than the ancient date of 1917. The CBS News website has a background section called "A Struggle For Middle East Peace." Its history timeline starts no earlier than 1897. The NBC News background section called "Searching for Peace" has a timeline which starts in 1916. BBC's timeline starts in 1948.

Yet, the clincher must certainly be the Palestinian National Authority's own website. While it is top heavy on such phrases as "Israeli occupation" and "Israeli human rights violations" the site offers practically nothing on the history of the so-called Palestinian people. The only article on the site with any historical content is called "Palestinian History - 20th Century Milestones" which seems only to confirm that prior to 1900 there was no such concept as the Palestinian People.

While the modern media maybe short on information about the history of the "Palestinian people" the historical record is not. Books, such as Battleground by Samuel Katz and From Time Immemorial by Joan Peters [have] detailed the history of the region. Far from being settled by Palestinians for hundreds, if not thousands of years, the Land of Israel, according to dozens of visitors to the land, was, until the beginning of the last century, practically empty. Alphonse de Lamartine visited the land in 1835. In his book, Recollections of the East, he writes "Outside the gates of Jerusalem we saw no living object, heard no living sound...." None other than the famous American author Mark Twain, who visited the Land of Israel in 1867, confirms this. In his book Innocents Abroad he writes, "A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action. We reached Tabor safely.... We never saw a human being on the whole journey." Even the British Consul in Palestine reported, in 1857, "The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population..."

In fact, according to official Ottoman Turk census figures of 1882, in the entire Land of Israel, there were only 141,000 Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab. This number was to skyrocket to 650,000 Arabs by 1922, a 450% increase in only 40 years. By 1938 that number would become over 1 million or an 800% increase in only 56 years. Population growth was especially high in areas where Jews lived. Where did all these Arabs come from? According to the Arabs the huge increase in their numbers was due to natural childbirth. In 1944, for example, they alleged that the natural increase (births minus deaths) of Arabs in the Land of Israel was the astounding figure of 334 per 1000. That would make it roughly three times the corresponding rate for the same year of Lebanon and Syria and almost four times that of Egypt, considered amongst the highest in the world. Unlikely, to say the least. If the massive increase was not due to natural births, then were did all these Arabs come from?

All the evidence points to the neighboring Arab states of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. In 1922 the British Governor of the Sinai noted that "illegal immigration was not only going on from the Sinai, but also from Transjordan and Syria." In 1930, the British Mandate -sponsored Hope-Simpson Report noted that "unemployment lists are being swollen by immigrants from Trans-Jordania" and "illicit immigration through Syria and across the northern frontier of Palestine is material." The Arabs themselves bare witness to this trend. For example, the governor of the Syrian district of Hauran, Tewfik Bey el Hurani, admitted in 1934 that in a single period of only a few months over 30,000 Syrians from Hauran had moved to the Land of Israel. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted the Arab influx. Churchill, a veteran of the early years of the British mandate in the Land of Israel, noted in 1939 that "far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied."

Far from displacing the Arabs, as they claimed, the Jews were the very reason the Arabs chose to settle in the Land of Israel. Jobs provided by newly established Zionist industry and agriculture lured them there[...]. Malcolm MacDonald, one of the principal authors of the British White Paper of 1939, which restricted Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel, admitted (conservatively) that were it not for a Jewish presence the Arab population would have been little more than half of what it actually was. Today, when due to the latest "intifada" Arabs from the territories under 35 are no longer allowed into pre-1967 Israel to work, unemployment has skyrocketed to over 40% and most rely on European aid packages to survive.


To maintain the charade of being an indigenous population, Arab propagandists have had to do more than a little rewriting of history. A major part of this rewriting involves the renaming of geography. For two thousand years the central mountainous region of Israel was known as Judea and Samaria, as any medieval map of the area testifies. However, the state of Jordan occupied the area in 1948 and renamed it the West Bank. This is a funny name for a region that actually lies in the eastern portion of the land and can only be called "West" in reference to Jordan. This does not seem to bother the majority of news outlets covering the region, which universally refer to the region by its recent Jordanian name.

The term "Palestinian" is itself a masterful twisting of history. To portray themselves as indigenous, Arab settlers adopted the name of an ancient tribe, the Phillistines, that died out almost 3000 years ago. The connection between this tribe and modern day Arabs is nil. Who is to know the difference? Given the absence of any historical record, one can understand why Yasser Arafat claimed that Jesus Christ, a Jewish carpenter from the Galilee, was a Palestinian. Every year, at Christmas time, Arafat would go to Bethlehem and tell worshipers that Jesus was in fact "the first Palestinian".


It is interesting to note that the Bible makes reference to a fictitious nation confronting Israel. "They have provoked me to jealously by worshiping a non-god, angered me with their vanities. I will provoke them with a non-nation; anger them with a foolish nation (Deuteronomy 32:21).""


In summary: The Arabic word Filastin is derived from Latin. There is no language known as Palestinian. The nations that inhabited the land prior to the Jews are no longer in existence, for they have been absorbed into various other peoples throughout the millennia.

Yes, there were Arabs in the land when when Jews arrived in the 1870's. But please note these were not the "indigenous natives" they would have you believe. Arabs of any nationality only came to the land in 632 with the spread of Islam. {Hmmm.. sounds tasty: "Spread of Islam - a taste of paradise".}

There is no distinct Palestinian culture. There has never been a land known as Palestine governed by Palestinians. Palestinians are Arabs, indistinguishable from Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, etc.

When the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said: "There is no such thing as 'Palestine' in history, absolutely not."

When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 , the following resolution was adopted: "We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds."

In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: "There is no such country [as Palestine]! 'Palestine' is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria."

In contrast, no serious historian denies the historical connection of the Jewish Nation to the land called Israel.

I think that covers the two questions of who was and who wasn't there.

This concludes part two of our series:
The Pessoptimist Saeed, the Donkey, & the Israeli Big Man.
The Alchemist, the Bar Keep, & the "Dim Sum" Man


At 3:59 אחה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Where should I start...

As for there being no Palestinian culture, you couldn't be more wrong. I can't describe the entirety of Palestinian culture in a blog comment. You need to do some research and also travel (why don't you try traveling to the Palestinian territories and see for yourself). Even living here in New York City, we are exposed to Palestinian culture--the food, music, dance, art (of course we get everything here in NYC--that's why I live here). Your statement about there being no Palestinian culture is racist. I'm frankly shocked you said such a thing.

As for there being no language called Palestinian--there's no language called American. Does that mean my country doesn't really exist; we should move back to England (along with the entire white populations of Australia and New Zealand to boot)?

Joan Peters has been debunked. Mark Twain, despite being a great American novelist, was a bigot and was not a historian. You need to read some more objective historical sources.

No one denies that (some) Jews have lived continuously in Palestine for thousands of years. I've never heard a Palestinian deny this. But the modern state of Israel was not founded by the indigenous Jews. It was founded by the zionist immigrants. So I don't see the connection between your historical summary and its title "My Case for Israel." I'm assuming by "Israel" you are talking about the modern state (?)

Also, the issues at hand today do not have to do with controversies over who was there first. Disputes over land ownership have to be resolved using our modern day standards of legal rights and human rights. I'm sure I could trace my ancestors to places all over the globe, but that doesn't mean I could just show up in these places and say this plot of land is mine, because my great-great-great-great-great-great(add 40 more greats) grandparents lived there. Wouldn't people laugh at me (and rightly so)?

As for "if only there hadn't been conquests and infighting" well the entire world would look a lot different if there had been no conquests and infighting. It's a bit late to shuffle the world and replace everyone to where they were 5,000, or maybe 10,000 years ago--especially since the world contains more than a thousand times as many people as it did then...The reality is we have to learn how to live together. Trying to recreate a world from thousands of years ago is just a fantasy, and perhaps a dangerous one.

At 9:57 לפנה״צ, Blogger YS said...

You have two very different points here.
One, There is a Palistinian culture of food music dance and art.
Two, The question of who was there first is an irrelivant question.

As to your first point, I did not say there is no Palistinian culture. I said there is no distinct palistinian culture (language, food, dance) from that of the surrounding arab states. This is largely because the people refering to themselves today as Palistinan hail from Syria, Egypt, and various parts of the former ottoman empire. This can be seen from turkish census records and was the reason I included the three paragraphs at the end starting with Prof. Hitti's statement. I agree with you, Twain and de Lamartine were not historians. Their travel-log observations are incvluded simply to support the facts from an anecdotal sense.

But you are correct. Thousands of years of history does not a modern state make. If that was so our world would be a very different place. The justification for the modern state of Israel is born out of things like the UN resolutions, the European desire to solve it's "Jewish Problem", and the world's guilt post-Holocaust. The history is important only in the coice of one bit of land over another and as anecdotal support for a (at the time) popular idea.

The years from 1870 until 1949 I'm hoping to cover in Part III. I felt that this bit of past history was important in light of how the history is presented in many media outlets. "A proud, thousand year old people have been ousted from their native lands by the evil Zionists." That is just not true.

At 2:46 אחה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

But 750,000 Palestinians WERE ousted from their land in the "War of Independence" a/k/a the Nakba (catastrophe). This fact is not in dispute. Even zionist historians admit it.

At 3:04 אחה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

I can't figure out what your definition of "indigenous" is. You seem to think that Jews are indigenous to present-day Israel despite the fact that the vast majority of Jews emigrated from somewhere else. At the same time, you say that most Arab Palestinians aren't indigenous, because some of their ancestors may have emigrated from Syria or Lebanon...You seem to be saying people are "indigenous" to whatever land their ancestors lived on 2,000 years ago, even though they have never been back since, but other people aren't indigenous to where they have been living continuously for hundreds of years. That doesn't make any sense. It also totally contradicts your statement that "thousands of years of history does not a modern state make."

Also, you seem to believe that all Arabs are alike. That's like saying that all Jews are alike. Actually American Jews and Israeli Jews have developed different cultures. In fact there are different Jewish cultures, correct me if I'm wrong, within Israel. There are different Jewish cultures in America. To try to claim that it doesn't make any difference to an Arab whether they live in Jordan, Lebanon, or Palestine is ridiculous. It would be like telling me that I could just leave New York and go live anywhere else in the U.S. I can tell you there is nowhere else in the U.S. like New York. I am a New Yorker. (I am not indigenous to New York by the way. But I have become a New Yorker). I am both an American and a New Yorker, just like Palestinians are both Arabs and Palestinians (except for the small number of Palestinians who are not Arab).

I think you are trying too hard.

At 3:36 לפנה״צ, Blogger YS said...

Nope. Not trying too hard. Not yet anyway.

Your first comment on the refugee issue will have to wait until I can address it more in full. I hope that will be part IV - Acusations and Failings. For the moment I'll ask if you are working from Benny Morris's first publishing or his revised edition.

Onward. Who is indigenous and who is not? A good question. Correct, there was a large influx of Jews to a land that there were very few Jews. Also correct it that there was a large influx of Arabs around the same time to an area which had very few Arabs living there at the time.

In my post I took issue with your statement of "even though they have never been back since, but other people aren't indigenous to where they have been living continuously for hundreds of years." I also feel I sufficiently supported my position.

I'm not denying that there is a problem to be solved here. I'm not saying toss them all in Mayanmar. But the image often shown by Ted Turner needs a bit more balance.


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