“It is natural that those indigenous peoples took on the different religions, cultures and customs of each new wave of invaders. The vast bulk of the indigenous peoples never left the land. The Palestinians of the 20th century claimed Palestine simply by reason of the fact that they were the indigenous inhabitants from time immortal”
Paul Heywood Smith, 2014
The land that is Palestine is an ancient land where humans have lived continuously for at least 9000 years. It is that part of the world known as the “cradle of civilization”. At no time, certainly in the last 3500 years, did people cease to live there. The Zionist catch-cry ‘A land without a people for a people without a land’ was, when first uttered in the 19th century, palpably wrong.
Of course, 2000years ago there was not a land with geographical borders known as Palestine, nor was a land named Germany for example. The nation state is of course a substantially 19th century creation. But who was occupying this land?
In biblical times, which can be interpreted as anything from 1000 BC to 400 AD, apart from people of the Jewish faith, the Canaanites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines, Jebusites, nomadic Bedouin… were all living in Palestine, then known as the land of Canaan. Those are the core of the Palestinian community, but this is not inclusive yet of whom today we call the Palestinians.
It should be understood that part of the Jews on this land did covert, by reason or force, to Christianity or Islam throughout 2000 years of history and they are also part of the Palestinians. It should be also understood that people of the Jewish faith lived far wider in the seaports of the Mediterranean like Alexandria in the time of Jesus coming.
Palestine being at a crossroad was further ruled by everyone and anyone in the neighborhood – Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Syrians, Persians, and Romans. All those have left behind families which integrated and became part of the Palestinian community as well.
Palestine became part of the Roman Empire in 63 BC, when Pompey imposed Roman rule. For something approaching 80 years prior to that time there had been what might be described as a form of independent Jewish state. It is significant to note that at that era the ‘state’ was not more than a community. This ruling community was particularly in Jerusalem and its environs to the north and south known as Judea. The Samaritans were another such community, closely related to Judaism, occupying the district of Palestine known as Samaria. Very little Samaritans remain in what is called Nablus in Israeli Occupied West Bank while most of them converted to Christianity or Islam by the 9th Century.
King Herod, who reigned from 37 BC to 4 BC and after which the second temple was named, was half Jew and half Arab. His father was an Edomite who converted to Judaism and his mother was a Nabatean. In 70 AD, Titus put down a Jewish rebellion and by doing so destroyed the second temple. The temple, which was the main symbol of the Jewish community, was never to be rebuilt. 60 years later, another Jewish revolt happened and named after its leader Simon Bar Kokhba. It was put down by Hadrian and the Romans effectively wiped Judea off the map renaming it Palestina, after the Philistines. People of the Jewish faith were substantially reduced in significance after these revolts.
It is important to note that throughout this Era, people were not absolutely wiped off what we call Palestine. The indigenous people of Canaan/Palestine, the non-Jewish communities, along with Jews who left their religion mainly of fear, have never stopped occupying that land. Palestinians remained there in their farms and homes.
In the 4th century, under Theodosius, Christianity became the state religion of the Empire and paganism was outlawed. This resulted in Jerusalem becoming a Christian city and the majority of the Palestinians became Christians.
In the 7th century Islam was introduced to Palestine. At the end of this century the Calipha, Abd-al Malik, built the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, and surround it with Al Aqsa Mosque. Jerusalem was at this time overwhelmingly Christian; Christians had the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Both Christians, Muslims, and a minority of left Jews mixed freely within Palestine, and all were led to convert to the new conquering religion in the subsequent years.
Under the Arab Caliphas, Jews found almost complete religious freedom. For a thousand years, the Jewish minorities throughout Palestine, Middle East, North Africa, and Iberia lived at peace with their neighbours. No clearer example of this exists than the way Jews welcomed the Muslim invasion of Spain in the 8th century as liberators from European Christian persecution.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, following the capture of Jerusalem in 1099 by the Crusaders, Christianity generally ruled in Palestine. Jerusalem in particular was purged of its Muslim and Minority Jews. At the end of the 12th century, Saladin expelled the Crusaders. Fredrick II regained Jerusalem by treaty in 1229 AD.
The 13th to 16th centuries saw Palestine ruled by the Mamluks, Jerusalem became an Islamic city again nevertheless Christianity and Minority Jews were tolerated. From 16th to 20th Century, Palestine was part of Ottoman Empire.
At the start of the Ottoman Empire, in the mid-16th century, the population of Jerusalem was 16,000 mainly Muslims and Christians. By the 1880’s, Palestine was peopled by 650,000 mostly Arab peoples. Those were the descendants of the 16,000 within Jerusalem environs plus the adjacent communities.
Anti-Semitism when used as a term refers to Judeophobia, hatred of Jews because they are Jews. When Christianity became the main value for citizenship in Europe, the Jews were excluded. The Jews were less to European society than the Palestinians are in Israel today.
Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, dated in the end of the 16th century, enable us to look into the 16th-century mind. The play ends when Antonio begs the duke to allow Shylock, the jew, to keep half his property on condition that “he at once becomes a Christian”.
By the late 19th century, anti-Semitism was a fact of life in many European countries. It is appropriate to mention here “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which was prepared by the Tsarist government (Russian Empire), Russia police in Paris, in an attempt to stave off all reforms. The document was malice against Jews presenting any threat to change as a Jewish manoeuvre. Following the Bolsheviks revolution, the document gained some measure of credence given the prominence of some jews in the Russian Revolution.
Anti-Semitism was the inspiration for Theodor Herzl to commence the Zionist movement by 1897 to create then a home for the Jewish people in Palestine. Some might say that the idea has a noble goal, but the plan as evidenced in Herzl’s diary was to be at the expense of the native Arab then population. Those who have never left the land since the dawn of history, those who might be descendants of many old Jewish communities are sought to pay the price of something they are not responsible for.
Comparing here anti-Semitism of Europe with the position in then Palestine, Montefiore writes about a multicultural Jerusalem in the 19th century:
“During the Jewish festival of Purim, Muslim and Christian Arabs dressed up in the traditional Jewish costumes, and all three religions attended the Jewish Picnic held at the tomb of Simon.” “Jews presented their Arab neighbours with matzah and invited them to the Passover Seder dinner, while the Arabs returned the favour by giving the Jews newly baked bread when the festival ended.”
And so the Zionist movement commenced to buy Arab land in Palestine and encouraged Jews to go there. All land acquired was to remain Jewish property that could not be sold or leased to “others” and where possible only Jews should work on Jewish acquired land.
The movement had friends in high places, the British prime minister in 1916 and Arthur Balfour his foreign secretary. Thus led to the Balfour Declaration in 1917, whilst Britain was at war with the Ottoman Empire. But why would the British minister consider he and his country had the right to blatantly decide the fate of other peoples?
WW1 ended and the British mandate over Palestine lasted roughly thirty years, from 1917 until 1948. The influence of these thirty years were deep and had unleashed the later injustice to the Palestinians, the fate of the indigenous of the land was sealed.
Herbert Samuel was the first British Jew to govern Palestine during the mandate. The Zionist Jew did whatever required to secure the land to the Zionist organization. Hebrew was recognized as one of the three official languages of the territory, and Jewish immigration was wide open to the Jews of the world.
The Zionists introduced an alien culture. They insisted on Hebrew, separate schools and hospitals, self-segregation, Jewish exclusive soccer team, and the exclusion of Arabs, the indigenous, from every institution they established.
It is worth here noting the British census of 1918. An estimate of 700,000 Arabs and 56,000 Jews. Those were the Arabs referred to as the “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” in Balfour Declaration.
By the early 1920’s, despite the Zionist efforts and the intent of the British government, the percentage of the Jewish population did not dramatically increase. It stood around 10%.
By 1928 Jews amounted to 16% of Palestine’s population, riots broke out in 1929 and the indigenous, the Palestinians, could not hold resisting the British plan for their land. Till then no one could have foretold the Nazism, the Holocaust, and the dramatic effect on the influx of Jewish peoples into Palestine. By 1933 the Palestinian alarm turned into despair with the continual large Jewish immigration to their country.
Between 1936-1939 the Palestinians had the massive revolt against the British plan to their land. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Amin Al Husseini, openly supported the Nazi Germany against the British position in the Middle East. The Mufti escaped from possible incarceration in 1937 and the revolution was bitterly crushed by the British Mandate by 1939.
In 1938 Evian conference was held calling to find a solution for Jews suffering from Hitler’s terror. US, Canada, and Australia offered to take a few and the conference was a failure. Evidence behind the failure was because of Zionist opposition. They wanted Jews in Palestine only. Morris Ernst, international envoy for refugees, wrote in his memoir “active Jewish leaders decried, sneered, and then attacked me as if I were a traitor…. furthering this plan of freer immigration in order to undermine political Zionism”.
In 1939 when Jewish percentage of the total percentage was approaching 30% and to put an end to the Palestinian revolution, Britain purported to stop further Jewish immigration after admitting 75,000 more Jews within 5 years. The Palestinians were already exhausted after years of resistance, yet the claim did not stand in front of the revelations of the Holocaust, the Zionist pressure, and Jewish Zionist terrorism. The US itself took only 5000.
“With food comes hunger”. Britain asserted that it was not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish state. In August 1945, President Truman endorsed Zionist demand that 100,000 Jews should be allowed immediately into Palestine. By 1946, Jewish extremists waged terror campaign peaked with the blowing up of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, the headquarter o the British administrations.
In 1948, by the eve of the creation of Israel, the Zionist immigration and buyout project had increased the Jewish population of Palestine from 3% to 33% and land ownership from 1% to ~6%. The UN estimates for Palestine by late 1947 were 1.3 million Arabs and 600,000 Jews.
It is appropriate to acknowledge that there are no absolutes. Many good Jewish immigrants no doubt came to Palestine looking for home and shelter. For most, particularly after Zionist intervention, Palestine was the only option for seeking a life. Not all were Zionists, but they ended up on the wrong side of history.
In 1947 (Resolution 181, 29 Nov 1947) the United Nations voted 33:13 (with 10 abstentions) to partition Palestine. The Zionist managed to overwhelm many nations through diplomatic violence by the Truman White House (ex: Liberia was told that American investment would not proceed unless voted Yes) and achieved a disproportionate 55% of Palestine. The time was when sympathy of the world lay with the Jewish people who suffered from Nazis. Not many countries were yet represented in the UN then. The 33 chose to give another people’s land to the Jewish People. The Arab votes were against. the United Kingdom was an abstain. Palestine itself had no vote.
It is worth noting that the Arab Higher Committee issued a statement in September 1947 which advocated freedom and independence for an Arab state in the whole of Palestine which would respect human rights and interests of all minorities. The Arabs later proposal to ask the International Court of Justice to judge the competency of the General Assembly to partition a country against the wishes of a majority of its inhabitants was defeated
The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel proclaimed on 14 May 1948. Violence had already erupted weeks before the date with ethnic cleansing of few Palestinian villages near Tel Aviv. The Palestinians were outnumbered and disproportionately armed, the neighbouring Arab countries declared the war. Below are few points to shed light on this war:
Plan Dalet of the Zionist troops according to Ilan Pappé, Israeli Jewish historian and professor at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, had its purpose to conquer as much of Palestine and to expel as many Palestinians as possible. In his book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Pappé asserts that Plan Dalet was a “blueprint for ethnic cleansing” with the aim of reducing both rural and urban areas of Palestine.
The existence of Dalet Plan need not be proven further, what actually happened was an ethnic cleansing. Around 750,000 indigenous Palestinians fled or expelled off their homeland forever. 380 Palestinian town and village were destroyed so that the inhabitants could not return.
The Armistice agreement of 1949 saw Israel acquire 78% of historical Palestine. In 1950 the Israeli Knesset passed the Law of Return that “every Jew has the right to immigrate to Israel”, no such right was afforded to the true original inhabitants who now reside in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, and neighbouring countries.
Palestine tragedy and the harsh injustices were the father of later violence in the region. In 1967 another war would erupt, and Israel would occupy the remaining 20% of Palestine.
To strive for balance, we should not forget that some 800,000 Jews who lived in Arab countries ended up in Israel years after 1948. There is convincing evidence, however, that Iraqi Jews were induced to flee to Israel by Zionists as per former CIA agent Wilbur Eveland.
Resolution 194, following the report of Count Bernadotte, recommends the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.
Resolution 242. Following 1967 war was a unanimous decision of the Security Council called for the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territories occupied in the war.
Both resolutions are yet to be implemented while Israel continues its confiscation of more and more Palestinian land.
“Not a few were fanatical, not a few were arrogant… They were given over to the dream of turning Palestine into Israel….The Arabs had no rights: they were to be torn up from their land to make way for the Jews”
Sir Walter Crocker on Sir Raphael Cilento (Senior official in the UN Secretariat), 1984
Advocated cultural Zionism, the creation of Jewish cultural centers within a bi-national state
Albert Einstein (German Jew), died 1955
“Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English. What is going on in Palestine today cannot be justified by any moral code of conduct…A religion act cannot be performed with the aid of the bayonet or the bomb”
Mahatma Gandhi, 1938
“We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”
Nelson Mandela, 1997
“There is no getting away from the fact that, as an idea, a memory, and as an often buried or invisible reality, Palestine and its people have simply not disappeared”
Edward Said (Palestinian-American professor at Columbia University), 1998