I don’t know anyone who isn’t tired of watching the endless wars in the Middle East. The fighting there sends a ripple effect through the region and ultimately the whole world. In the end, everyone pays. But who is to blame? Is it the Jews or the Arabs who should be dealt with severely? We are often told that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians. But what is a “Palestinian”?
Most people know that Israel existed a long time ago as a sovereign nation that stood for centuries and had approximately the same borders as it does today. However, its fortunes changed 2,000 years ago when the Roman Empire sacked Jerusalem in AD 70. But the Jews continued resisting them. So in order to make his point, Emperor Hadrian sowed salt into Israel’s fields to starve them, made it a capital crime for a Jew to enter Jerusalem ― and renamed their land Palaestina. The name was taken from an old foe of Israel’s ― but not the Arabs:
Palestine [is] a geographical name of rather loose application. Etymological strictness would require it to denote exclusively the narrow strip of coastland once occupied by the Philistines, from whose name it is derived…(Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., p. 600).
The Philistines were actually cousins to the Greeks.
The area called Palestine has gone through the hands of various empires ― Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Roman, Ottoman and many other administrations. It seems to have had no lasting or cohesive ethnic identity since Israel owned it. It was simply a geopolitical asset for a succession of empires.
Around the turn of the century, there were fewer than a million people living in Palestine. The population included roughly 70,000 Arab Christians, 85,000 Jews and 535,000 Arab Muslims. The latter were enjoying the global status of their overlord, the Ottoman Empire. There was no regional state identity, but the Arabs made stringent efforts to prevent more Jews from migrating there. This was their aim at a time when they had no special claim to the land, plenty of room and no wars with the Israelis. It is still their aim.
After World War I, which brought about the demise of the Ottoman Empire, Palestine was under joint control by the French and the British, then Britain alone. After World War II, many Jews migrated back to the area from displaced persons camps and from all over the world following the Holocaust. In 1947, as Britain relinquished its rule over Palestine, the United Nations General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into independent Arab and Jewish states, with a special international regime for Jerusalem. The Arabs rejected the partitioning of Palestine. However, with help from the United States, the Jews declared the independence of the State of Israel in May 1948.
While the Jewish community accepted the 1937 and 1947 partition plans, the Palestinian Arab leadership, dominated by the Husseini family, rejected both plans categorically. Indeed, most Palestinians turned down the 1937 design, even though it designated only 20 percent of Palestine to the proposed Jewish state. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership even rejected the 1939 British White Paper, which had promised them an independent state within ten years while limiting Jewish immigration and turning the Jews into a minority in an Arab Palestinian state. (http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=104)
Besides everything else, the 1947 U.N. proposal gave Arabs half of Jerusalem. Amazingly, the Jews accepted the proposal. It is even more astonishing that the Arabs rejected it.
For more than 3,000 years, Jerusalem has been a sacred city for the Jews. It was the capital of their nation, the site of the Jewish Temple. Jews pray toward the city. Its name is sprinkled through Jewish prayers. When Jews give the blessing at the end of each meal, the city is mentioned.
But what of the Arabs?
Where does Jerusalem fit in Islam and Muslim history? It is not the place to which they pray, is not once mentioned by name in prayers, and it is connected to no mundane events in Muhammad’s life. The city never served as capital of a sovereign Muslim state, and it never became a cultural or scholarly center.
Furthermore, the Koran doesn’t mention Jerusalem one single time. It has been just another city for most of Islam’s history and rejected as a holy city by many Muslim scholars.
Who can know what is in the minds and hearts of the Palestinians? They may love Jerusalem and feel attached (and even entitled) to the land. But feelings and personal circumstances don’t change geopolitical realities. Palestine is a region, not a nation. The designation “Palestinian” does not refer to an ethnic group. The people who began calling themselves Palestinians are just Arabs from all over the Middle East who migrated to Palestine late in the game. They were permitted to ensconce themselves there by other entities that actually held title to the land. They do not have, nor have they ever had, any sovereignty there. They basically walked in and started pitching tents. The Jews, on the other hand, fought and died to take it from the Canaanites 3,000 years ago.
Someone should explain to the Palestinians: There are only so many ways to become a sovereign nation-state: 1) Win a piece of land in a war with whoever controls it (which Palestinians have been trying unsuccessfully to do for decades), 2) Receive the land as a gift from the sovereign owner or controller of it (the Arabs were offered half of Palestine by the U.N., but they turned it down because of their objection to sharing Palestine with the Jews), or 3) occupy the land before other contenders to the title. Palestinians have done none of these things. They were preceded in Palestine many centuries before by Israel.
All this information is readily available. Why, then, is there always such an outpouring of sympathy for the Palestinians? Israel may have occasionally been brutal in its treatment of its neighbors. You try thinking clearly and showing noble restraint when your enemies constantly fire rockets at your civilian centers, then hide in churches and schools to avoid counter attacks. Consider what the Israelis have endured in having to share a tiny piece of land (which it once owned outright) with Arab latecomers who have permitted abominations like Hamas and Hezbollah to operate within its borders.
Here we are, watching Hamas commit atrocities that should make the world shudder. Instead, it sympathizes with the Arabs. Most of the world seems to be in the grip of a demonic trance. It is the same irrationality that has inspired anti-semitism through the centuries ― pogroms and massacres too many to list. Why? First, because they are God’s chosen people; hence, the devil hates them ― and inspires the masses to follow suit.
However, there is a more basic reason for anti-semitism: envy. American writer and humorist Mark Twain had the following (and much more) to say about the Jews:
If the statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one per cent. of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of star-dust lost in the blaze of the Milky Way. Properly the Jew ought hardly to be heard of; but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers.
He has made a marvellous fight in this world, in all the ages; and has done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it. The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away; the Greek and the Roman followed, and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other peoples have sprung up and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out, and they sit in twilight now, or have vanished.
The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?
There can only be one reason for the impossible triumph of the Jew: it is the will of God. Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iran, Palestine and most of the world will one day find that they have been fighting against God.