May 26, 2018
Palestinians? What Palestinians! Timothy Birdnow Here is one from the archives. I thought it dovetails nicely with the piece below about the nature of the Palestinians and historical ignorance. Who owns Palestine? This is no idle question; the region has been the source of wars through all of history. Men have been fighting over that tiny strip of land since the Chaldeans, and the concept of ownership remains hazy in the minds of modern men. Today the Jews hold large segments of it, and they are being challenged by the "Palestinians", Muslim peoples who claim Israel "stole" it from them. Who has the more valid claim? I am not going to get into religion here; that is a topic for another essay. I can't exactly avoid religion, either; it is at the crux of the warfare in Palestine, at least since 70 a.d. and actually long before. What I want to do is examine the claims, and decide who has the stronger case. There once was a land called Canaan. A relatively fertile strip surrounded by desert, this land was watered by a large creek called the Jordan river with a freshwater lake in the north and a sunken salt lake in the desert lands to the south. What made Canaan important was that it was a way-station between two great civilizations; Egypt and Mesopotamia. There were harbors, so sea-faring peoples could trade. The inhabitants made their living as traders and in hospitality. Largely Hamitic peoples, the original Canaan produced the Phoenicians, a sea-faring people on the coast who would settle in North Africa and create the city of Carthage, queen of an empire that rivaled Rome for centuries. The early history is murky, but Canaan was inhabited by numerous peoples. That was to be expected for a land at the crossroads. Egypt ruled the land between 1990 and 1790 b.c. A string of invaders troubled the region over this period; Amorites invaded around 2000 b.c. from the fertile crescent, Hyksos, Hurrians, and Hittites all invaded during the Egyptian period and after. The Hysksos conquered Egypt, and ruled for a while. Then around 1600 b.c. the Egyptians overthrew them and reasserted control of the region. Their power waned by 1400 and a collection of independent city states sprang up. In the 13th century the Israelites advanced into Canaan from Egypt. There they joined their "brothers" the Semitic Edomites (children of Esau, the brother of Jacob) and began the conquest of the region. A century later the Greek Philistines invaded, and established their coastal kingdoms. It was Israel that would prosper. The Israelites never completely conquered the region, but under Kings David and Solomon they would hold dominion. After the kingdom split in two the enemies of Israel reasserted themselves. The Assyrians would tire of duplicity in this important region (it was the road to Egypt, remember) and could not tolerate an alliance between Israel and Egypt, so invaded the northern kingdom and took the inhabitants away - at least the ruling class of Israelites. They stopped at the gates of Jerusalem, preferring to leave the kingdom of Judah as a buffer to Egypt. When Babylon conquered Assyria the Jews (Judah-ites) made the same blunder, trusting in Egypt to protect them. Babylon conquered Judah, and took most of the inhabitants away. Many of the remaining Jews fled to Egypt, where they were swallowed by the Egyptian culture. But the Jews, unlike their northern brothers in Israel, kept themselves apart from the Babylonians (who tried very hard to enculturate them, even giving their nobility Babylonian names and titles) and, when Persian finally conquered Babylon, the King allowed them to resettle back in Canaan. (This was Persian policy; let exiled peoples return to their homelands in return for allegiance to the empire.) The Assyrians and Babylonians had settled other peoples here, and these peoples were an amalgamation of exiles from different lands. They adopted quasi-Jewish practices, and became known as Samaritans, because they settled around the capital of the kingdom of Israel - Samaria. They are virtually extinct today. What must be understood is that the Israelites absorbed the indigenous peoples through the centuries, and what we call Jews are the admixture of the original Hebrew tribe with the inhabitants of the land. They are the Canaanites, Phoenicians, Philistines, Egyptians, Romans, etc. Their relationship to Abraham was spiritual more than physical (although through intermarriage they would wind up with common ancestry.) They would remain in this land until 70 a.d. when the Romans would send some 6them into exile. Now, it must be understood; the Romans did not take all the Jews, and there remained Jews in the land who maintained an unbroken succession. There simply were other settlers who lived alongside them. In 637 Jerusalem fell to Muslim Caliph Umar the Great. It remained in Muslim hands (sometimes benevolently, sometimes not - in 1077 Emir Atsiz ibd Uvaq slaughtered the inhabitants for rebelling against his rule, for example) until 1099 when the First Crusade attempted to reopen the pilgrimage roads to Jerusalem and the Latin Kingdoms were established. They lasted 70 years. It must be understood that Islamic kings of various sorts ruled over the land, but it was still the same indigenous peoples living there - Jews, Christians, and some Muslims. The Jews never left. This is important to understanding their claim to the land; they never relinquished it. There is no mention of a "Palestinian Peoples" by ancient historians. And this land did not flourish under Islamic rule; Mark Twain, upon visiting the region in 1867, described it as: “….. A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent mournful expanse…. a desolation…. we never saw a human being on the whole route…. hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” And the Jews outnumbered the non-Jews the entire time. See this graph. Once the Ottoman Empire dissolved and the region came under British control, the population began skyrocketing - the population of both Jews and non-Jews. The Palestinians came because the Jews developed what had been largely a wasteland, and they came to find employment. The standard of living was far better in Jewish Palestine than in the Arab lands. But the Jews were always present, and that strengthens their claims to the land. The old legal saw "possession is 9/10ths of the law" applies here. In 1948 the United Nations created the state of Israel, and Trans-Jordan was supposed to be the Palestinian state. The Jordanian government was distrusted by the other Arab powers and realized the problems involved, so threw their western peoples to the wolves, dumping a problem population onto the Israelis (most of these settlers were new to the area, and were generally uneducated. Many were illegal immigrants.) When the first war broke out between Israel and the Arabs. The Arabs sought to "drive Israel into the sea" yet Israel won - and continued winning as the Islamic world paused just long enough to reload their guns after every peace accord. (It should be pointed out that most "refugees" left voluntarily to avoid the war zone, believing they would triumphantly return as the rulers of the region. In short, the abandoned their claims to the property.) That is the key here; the Jews never left, and the "Palestinians" voluntarily left. Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence (and Palestine was under British rule) says that possession and use of a property makes one the owner. There is a thing called adverse possession, in which someone can use another person's property "openly and notoriously" for a period of time (generally seven years) and he then gains title to it. The Jews never left, never abdicated their claim, while many of the "Palestinians" did. They were the newcomers. They are not decedents of the Philistines as they claim - those would be the Jews. They abandoned their claims to the land in 1948 (and, in the process, have destroyed the unique Christian culture of Lebanon, turning that once exemplary country into another Islamic hell-hole.) They have no legal claim to this land. Their only claim is the assertions by Muhammad that Jerusalem is sacred, and the long-standing control of the region by the Turks. The Turks were essentially imperialists, holding the region under control by force of arms. Palestine was a colony, as much as India was a colony of Great Britain. Nobody would argue that English expatriates have the right to possess India, yet we are told Muslims have the right to possess the ancestral lands of the Jews. This is about Islamic visions of manifest destiny, the view that Islam rightly owns the world. They have conquered the land and they will not be moved from it. Muslims routinely call Israel a crusader state, trying to give it some sort of illegitimacy. That is the crux (pun intended) of their claim. They have zero credibility from a legal or moral position. That is why Barack Obama's position on a return to the 1967 borders is so ludicrous; the Palestinians really hold no claim to these borders, and Israel has offered land for the promise of peace in the past - with disastrous results. Every acre ceded to Palestinians has been used as ground to attack Israel. Israel is under no obligation to give this land up, yet they have done so repeatedly, only to be betrayed by the Muslims who find Taqqiya - that is, lying for Allah - eternally effective. Israel cannot be expected to fall for the same trick again. Obama holds the easy, feel good solution. Is that the brilliance his liberal friends ascribe to him? There is no chance of anything good coming from such a move; war would be inevitable, and it would likely be worse than any we have yet witnessed. But Obama could say he did something about the problem, yessiree! Israel is the front line of a worldwide struggle between a resurgent, expansionistic belief system, one bent on world domination, and the defenders of freedom. We cannot afford to lose there. Too bad Obama doesn't understand this.
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