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Palestine.....Israeli or Arab..Whose Land Is It Really?
The Palestinian People.... Do You Know Who They Are?
No other people on Earth have affected the world community quite like the Jews. Throughout the last 3500 years they have been, conquered, enslaved, free. slaughtered by the millions, vilified and hated of all nations. They have been and continue to be blamed, by some, for any and all economic, political and civil problems the world community has ever suffered. There are countless conspiracy theories all pointing to a coming Jewish domination and how they are working behind the scenes to achieve, for themselves, world economic control.
Are these theories true? Are the Jews out to control you and your country's economic future? Where do these theories come from? Do you look upon the Jews with admiration and respect for their accomplishments or do you believe they are the root cause of most, if not all, of the world's problems? Do you know why you believe the way you do or how you came to the conclusions you hold?
So many questions....let's see if we can find some answers. Before I begin let me apologize now for all the dates and historical place names I am going to use. There is no way to avoid using them when telling the chronological history of the Jews .
Who Are The Jews and Where Did They Come From?
The twelve tribes of Israelites who sprang up from the twelve sons of the Patriarch Isaac emerged as a nation in the area that came to be known as Palestine, also referred to as the Southern Levant, around 1480BC. The first mention of the name "Israel" in the archaeological records was recorded in 1209BC. King Saul, one of the more well known early kings of Israel, ruled c1080 BC.
Around 925BC jealously, strife and a continuous struggle for power and leadership between the tribes had grown to such a point that, eventually, the nation was split into two separate kingdoms. The kingdom of the south ,with Jerusalem as its capital, was call "Judah" and the kingdom of the north, which included the majority of the tribes, was called "Israel". The term "Jew" refers to the people of the tribe of Judah or the kingdom of Judah which also included the tribes of Benjamin and the Priestly tribe...the Levities.
The Jews as a people have continued to live in their ancestral home for nearly 3500 years. There have been many attempts, over the centuries, to remove them from the land. In 722 BC the Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel and removed the people from the land. This removal of the Israelites from their home gave rise to the enduring mystery of the "Lost Tribes of Israel". Once the Israelites were removed they never resettled the area again and have been lost to history. There are many theories that have surfaced offering explanations of what happened to the "Lost Tribes" and their, decedents possible whereabouts today but none of the theories have fully solved the mystery.
The Jews took a different path. The Kingdom of Judah continued to thrive after the departure of their "brothers" for another 136 years before they themselves were conquered and removed from their land by the Babylonians and King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC. The difference this time was that, unlike the Israelites of the northern kingdom, the Jews after a time were allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their destroyed city and nation. The Jews returned to their land with the assistance of the Persian Kings Cyrus and Darius around 515BC and rebuilt Jerusalem.
For the next 200 years the Jews rebuilt their country and flourished as a nation under the passive control of their Babylonian rulers. By 333BC the armies of Alexander The Great had conquered Palestine and the Macedonians who where now the new rulers ,like the Babylonians before them, continued to allowed the Jews to live in relative peace and with some limited autonomy.
In a violent reaction to what was perceived as a desecration of their Temple in 165 BC the kingdom of Judah rose up in revolt in what would become known as the Maccabean Revolt which ended in 163BC. The revolt was successful and the Jews enjoyed freedom for the first time in centuries. While there were problems with the Egyptians and some of their old enemies the Jews embarked on nearly 100 years of peace. It should be noted here that at this time, in history, the Kingdom of Judah was much larger than present day Israel. The Kingdom encompassed Israel proper, the West Bank, The Golan Heights, The Gaza Strip and most of what is now western Jordan. Sound familiar?
By 63BC the Jews found themselves occupied, once again, under the yoke of the powerful Roman Empire. This began a period of occupation, that would involve successive empires, and would last for nearly 1900 years. It would not be until 1948 that the Jewish people would once again become a free nation. It is important to note here that at no time in their 3500 year history did the Jews ever leave Israel completely. There was always a Jewish presence in the land.
I have purposely kept the history of the Jews as brief as I could. There have been hundreds of books written on Jewish history and I did not want this to be another one. I just wanted to give you an overview of the chronological history of Israel and the Jewish people.
Palestine......Now there is a word that conjures up a myriad of emotions in most people. I believe it is important to understand what Palestine is and isn't. How it came to be and what, if anything, it has to do with the Jews.
The first recorded usage, of the term Palestine, was found in a letter written by the Greek philosopher Herodotus around 450BC when he referred to the area that spanned from Turkey in the north down the Mediterranean coast to Egypt in the south. The land included Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan and parts of Saudi Arabia. The term he used was Syria Palaestina or Philistine Syria. In 198BC the coastal area, from Lebanon to the Gaza strip was also referred to as Syria-Phoenica.
The Gaza strip was called Phillistia which tranlated to "the home of the Phillistines" The Phillistines were a seafaring people believed to be of Greek origin. Phillistia was also believed to have been the home of "Goliath" the giant who fought the shepherd boy...David who would grow up to be the King of Israel.. The Israelites and the Phillistines were continuous and bitter enemies.
In 200AD The Romans made the name "Palestine" official when they combined the areas of Samria, Judea Proper, Idumea and Gaililee into a new province which they called Syria Palaestina or Palestine. They also renamed Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. After more than 200 years of Jewish revolts The Romans issued the decree to renamed the area of Judea in order to remove any references to the Jewish people and to completely disassociate the land from their Israelite heritage. Historically, as it turned out, the Roman decree didn't work although there were severe consequences for the Jewish people. Within a century Hebrew, as a spoken language, had all but disappeared. It did, however, continue on as a written language in much of Jewish literature. Ironically in the end the Roman Empire disappeared, as all empires do, but the Jews are still in their land and in some ways just as rebellious as ever.
Palestine next came under the control of the Byzantines who ruled from 330-638AD The borders had, by this time, been redrawn and the area of Palestine was much larger that it is today.It had been divided into 3 provinces which now included all of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah along with most of Jordan and much of southern Syria. During this occupation a large Jewish population continued to grow and prosper.
In 638AD Palestine was taken from the Byzantines by the Great Arab Empire. The Arabs ruled over the Jews for the next 461 years. Under Arab rule the Jews were, for the most part, well treated and in some ways even thrived. While the Byzantines had refused the Jews entry into Jerusalem for almost 300 years under the Arabs they were allowed to live and worship ,once again, in their ancient capital .
In 1099 the Crusader Period began and lasted until 1244. The Jewish people were subject to untold barbarity at the hands of the Crusaders . There are estimates of Jewish deaths during the Crusades ranging from the hundreds of thousands to more than one million. The vast majority of this indiscriminate slaughter, visited upon the Jews, came at the hands of the "Holy" Crusaders. This time period does account for some of the "differences" that exist between Christians and Jews. When a Christian sees a Cross he see salvation and hope......When a Jew sees a Cross he sees persecution and death. One's perspective, in any discussion, can never be discounted.
The Arabs regained control of Palestine in 1244 and drove the Crusaders out for good. They ruled for another 250 years before they, themselves, were defeated by the Ottoman Turks in c1500. The Arab Empire was defeated and, in a twist of irony, found themselves sharing the same status as the Jewish people. They were both, Jew and Arab, conquered and occupied nations. Although the Turks had converted to Islam they were not Arabs and a divide between the two Muslim nations still exist to this day. The Turks and the Arabs coexist under the Islamic banner but memories are long and passions can still run high. It was also during this time of upheaval that, after nearly 850 years of ruling Palestine ,the Arabs became the majority of the population in the area.
The Ottoman Turk empire ruled Palestine for just over 400 years before they were finally defeated by the Western Allies in 1917 during WWI. The British General Allenby sealed the victory by marching his forces to the walls of Jerusalem where he dismounted his horse and walked on foot through the Jaffa gate into the city on December 11, 1917. The symbolism was not lost on the Christians and Jews who witnessed the historic event.
Thus began the endgame that is referred to as the "British Mandate for Palestine" that resulted in the creation of the Jewish state of Israel in 1948.
In this last section we will deal with the British Mandate, the UN Partition and how it led to the rebirth of Israel and War!
The British Mandate for Palestine gave Great Britain legal authority to administer the area. The Mandate itself was created by the Treaty of Versailles, agreed to by the League of Nations, in 1919 after WW1. One of the stated purposes of this mandate was the recognition of the historic connection of the Jewish people with the land of Palestine and the eventual establishment of a Jewish homeland.
With the public release of the Balfour Declaration two years earlier in 1917 the British Government had taken the lead on this issue and politically acknowledged their support for the goal of the creation of a Jewish homeland.
The area of Palestine, under the mandate ,stretched from the Lebanese border in the north to the Sinai Peninsula in the south. The Mediterranean Sea formed the western border and the great desert expanse on the eastern side of the Jordan river as far east as Petra completed the main boundaries. All together some 118,000 square kilometers had been set aside for the stated purpose of creating the new country. Unfortunately ,for all of us, the British engaged in secret, and not so secret, negotiations with several nations over the issues. The deals with the Arab nations and the European powers at times seemed so contradictory to the Mandate's goals that major changes in the effort were "necessary". What resulted in these efforts through the various British and UN "plans" became a nightmare for most of the people involved. The political climate and the particular incompetence of the British Government on this issue destroyed any opportunity to negotiate a peaceful solution where The Jews and the Arabs could live side by side in peace. The failed British/United Nations efforts resulted in a fractured land, war, death and destruction and a hopeless peace process which has cause the entire world great grief and consternation even to this day.
The deal making actually started in 1915 four years before the Versailles treaty. Henry McMahan the British High Commissoner base in Egypt corresponded with Husayn bin Ali the Sharif of Mecca in which informal negotiations were begun between the two men. These negotiations made great strides and accomplished their expectations. Out of these exchanges a new country was indeed born. That new country was called..........TransJordan,,, which we know today as the Kingdom of Jordan.
While the British politicians, bureaucrats and diplomats thought themselves superior, in every way, to most people they especially had a disdain for the Arabs and their leaders. They almost always underestimated the intelligence and cunning that many Arab leaders processed. Going into any negotiations underestimating your adversary usually doesn't end well for your side.
The British quickly lost control of the area and the issue. For the next 30 years they found themselves constantly under attack, verbally, politically and physically, by both sides. They had put themselves in a no win situation and paid a heavy price for their folly.
Of the 118,000 square kilometers originally assigned by the Mandate to create a Jewish homeland 91,000 had been given to the new Arab nation of Jordan. In later years Jordan would annex "the West Bank" which accounted for another 5700 sq km. Jordan share was now 96,700 sq km. The Golan heights were eventually given to Syria and The Gaza strip was occupied by Egypt. In total of the original land area of 118,000 sq km The Arabs received 98,000 sq km and the Jews ended up with 8000 sq km which they could inhabit and 12,000 sq km of the Negav Desert which they were not allowed to settle because 15,000 Bedouin were believed to "use" the Negav leaving it "out of bounds" for the Jews. This became known as the UN Partition plan. The Jews accepted the plan while the Arab nations rejected it. ".
On May 14 1948 the nation of "Israel" was recognized by the United Nations. Neither the Jews or the Arabs were satisfied however the Jews accepted the partition of the land and were prepared to live with their choice. The Arab nations were not so inclined. The next day May 15, 1948 the armies of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attacked Israel with the intention of destroying it. The Arabs armies failed and were defeated by a tiny and ill equipped Israeli army that was outnumbered and outgunned. The defeat was so complete that a new line of history was begun. Every nation and people on earth, whether they realize it or not, have been and are still affected by the legacy of the British Mandate for Palestine.
Palestine was and is the ancient homeland of the nation of Israel. They have lived and died in the land for over 3500 years. The name Palestine, which came from the Greek language and was adopted by the Romans, was given to the area when the Romans renamed "Judea" to remove the Jewish connection from the land.As we can see it didn't work. The Jews remain and they always will in their own land. But what of the Arab people who, also, can trace their history back thousands of years to the same area. What do they deserve. During the British Mandate the dividing of Palestine was to provide a homeland for the Jews and for the Arab population as well. The new country of Jordan was the Arab share of Palestine. After the new Kingdom of Jordan was set up by the British the Arab Palestinians found themselves "persons non gratis" They were no longer welcomed in Jordan. After the 1948 war there were hundreds of thousands of Arab Palestinians who found themselves refugees in the land that was rightfully theirs...Jordan.
The final irony is that the true historical identity of the Palestinian people for the last 2000 years are... ....the Jews and the Arabs. Palestine was the name given to the Kingdom of Judah by the Romans. It is the Jewish homeland but it is also home to generational Arabs as well . Had they been left alone these two ancient peoples would have, almost certainly, worked out a compromise together.....They would have found a way to co-exist as they always have. Unfortunately the United Nations ,with their self-righteous arrogance, interfered and set the middle east and the world on a path whose destination is not yet known but the suffering and sorrow of nations have been felt by all men.