History of Palestine – Part 1

Many of my American friends do not know the history of Palestine. Until relatively recently, I sure didn’t.

Here’s my attempt to “educate” my fellow Americans. I would appreciate any constructive comments to my first draft.

“The erasure of Palestinian culture and history is a tactic of war and occupation, a means to further limit the self-determination of the Palestinian people. Yet the richness, beauty, and complexity of Palestinian existence was everywhere evident, in the historical and contemporary cultural material produced by writers, poets, journalists, artists, archivists and librarians, and in the histories passed down through stories and from person to person. We bore witness to a culture of resistance, which in all its myriad forms resoundingly refutes the notion that Palestine does not exist.” – Delegation of Librarians and Archivists who visited Palestine (August 2013)

As an American growing up in the 1950s & 60s, and taking note of the world beyond my horizon beginning in the 1970s, I learned about the Middle East through the Israeli narrative which the U.S. mainstream media picked up lock, stock and barrel.

The story-line went this way: The young Jewish state provided a safe-haven for the persecuted victims of the Holocaust. The kibbutzim were a progressive social experiment in a relatively empty landscape that might flourish one day. Hostile Arab neighbors were ruthless and wanted to destroy Israel in her infancy.  As the only democracy in that part of the world, America’s alliance with Israel made perfect sense; maybe America could spread some of its noble values around.

I didn’t question this story-line or look deeper because there were more pressing concerns – raising a family and starting a career – and, of course, the Viet Nam quagmire. Frankly, Southeast Asia was on my radar screen more than the Middle East until the “intifada” hit the nightly news in the late 1980s. What is an “intifada”?  Why were these children throwing rocks? The Israeli narrative began to crack but I was still too preoccupied to bother learning about the occupation. Most Americans, I suspect, were as unconcerned as I was about the Middle East.

Today a visitor can travel to France and easily grasp that country’s culture, its environs, and the current political scene without having any knowledge of the French Revolution; or to India without a scintilla of information about the British East India Company. Not so in Palestine.

The signs of the Israeli Occupation are everywhere. Travelers disembarking at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, intending to visit the West Bank or Gaza, are immediately confronted with the reality of the Occupation. Israeli security guards separate, isolate and question them, sometimes instruct them to open their Facebook and email accounts, and meticulously search their belongings. When this happened to me on my first visit in 2004, I started asking myself questions about the Occupation. What is an Occupation? Why is Israel occupying Palestine? Who is responsible for this Occupation?  Finding the answers required learning about the past.

Palestine isn’t a country, nation-state, or province; in the minds of some people, Palestine and Palestinians don’t even exist![2]  Do they have a history?

Before I set off on my second trip to the Middle East in 2011, I decided I needed to do some homework.  Reading up on the history of the region was part of my self-assignment. I quickly learned that the conflict is not limited to the politicians and rock-throwing youth. Historians are also battling with each other.

In the late 1980s, a group of Israeli historians, including Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris, began to challenge the commonly-accepted version of Israeli history based on newly-declassified Israeli government documents. Morris called them the New Historians. They went head-to-head with the traditional historians who cast Israel as the peace-seeking victim in a hostile Arab world, the David-and-Goliath narrative. The New Historians shared a more nuanced history of the exodus of the Palestinians and the reasons for the persistent political deadlock with the Arab states in the region.[3]

Why is the history of Israel and Palestine so important?

At its core, the conflict is framed from both sides as an issue of existence and identity.  Israeli leaders assert that their nation’s existence is threatened by hostile neighbors in the region, and they see criticism as an attempt to delegitimize Israel’s identity.

Palestinians also frame the conflict as one of existence and identity.  They say Israel is trying to wipe them off their land, and their identity as Palestinians is threatened in the absence of a sovereign state to call their own.

The historians continue to struggle with competing narratives. Students in Israel and Palestine are learning their own historical narratives through textbooks which conveniently omit the other’s narrative. Most diplomats and peace negotiators conduct their business as though the conflict between Israel and Palestine began in 1967, ignoring the pain and injustices that occurred when Israel first declared statehood in 1948.

Israelis and Palestinians are bound together in what appears to be an intractable conflict because of the history they share but refuse to acknowledge. Each side wants to cast their history in a light most favorable to their claims on the land, and also to legitimize their current actions. For the most part, neither side wants to hear the other and so no “peace agreement” nor “two-state solution” will mend this historical divide.

A non-historian’s summary of the history many Americans do not know.

Palestine’s location put it at the ancient crossroads of trade, science, scholarship and religion for many different people and cultures.

Zionists argue their claim on this land they call Judea and Samaria outranks all other claims because their God gave them this land thousands of years ago.

Palestinians (primarily Muslims) point to the conquests of the Arabian Peninsula beginning in the 630s by Prophet Mohammed and his followers. The region was governed by Muslim rulers for hundreds of years, with the exception of the Crusades (1099 – 1291) and then the establishment of Israel in 1948.

My eyes glaze over and I stifle a yawn when the advocates on either side turn back this far into history to support their claims. I can’t believe any deity wants his or her followers to trumpet their rights to the land or rationalize their cruelties and injustices based on events dating back so far in history.

Instead, I turn to more recent times when the Turks ruled their Ottoman Empire, including this region of the Middle East, for more than 400 years. There were no Arab states at that time – no state of Palestine — but after WWI the victorious British Empire laid claim and established Palestine’s first borders in 1922 with the blessing of the League of Nations.

Although there were Jewish immigrants escaping the pogroms and arriving in Palestine as early as the 1880s from Europe, the inhabitants in Palestine were predominantly Arab Muslims and Christians. [stats].

The British Mandate of Palestine (1920 – 1948) was a stressful time for everyone.  The indigenous Arab population had a flourishing network of towns and villages, a thriving commerce, and strong educational, religious and cultural institutions which knit them together.  [Photos]  They didn’t need or want British rulers.

The Zionist project was also flourishing, and Jewish immigrants were arriving in larger and larger numbers. [stats]  Resentments grew. For hundreds of years, Jews had been kicked out, humiliated, treated as second-class citizens, and worse, everywhere they went. The Zionists wanted a safe home to call their own and they had a very deliberate plan for how to accomplish their goal.

The British tried to keep the peace but were attacked by both sides. In 1948, they said “enough is enough!” and departed, turning the keys (so to speak) over to the United Nations.  Prior to their departure, the UN General Assembly approved the Partition Agreement on November 29, 1947, dividing the British Mandate of Palestine into two – giving 55% to a new Jewish state and 45% to a Palestinian Arab state.  The Jewish Agency accepted the division; the Arab governments in the region rejected it and war broke out.

Why did the Arabs reject the Partition Agreement? I suspect they felt the division was unfair. At the end of 1946, 1,269,000 Arabs and 608,000 Jews lived within the borders of Mandate Palestine. Jews had purchased 6 – 8% of the total land area of Palestine amounting to about 20% of the arable land.  Overnight, more than half the land passed into the hands of less than 1/3 the total population, and it just didn’t pass the smell test for most of the indigenous Arabs in the region. [ ]

1948-49 is the most disputed period in this history. Israelis celebrate May 14, 1948 as the birth of their new state.  Palestinians mourn May 15, 1948 as the Nakba (Catastrophe). Traditional Israeli historians believe that thousands of Palestinians voluntarily picked up and left their homes and villages in 1948-49. The New Historians have written about the deliberate plans to forcefully expel the native population; destroying or depopulating more than 450 towns and villages. [ ]

The key to home.

The key to home.

By the end of 1948, two-thirds of the Palestinian population (approximated 750,000 people) was exiled, and more than 50% were driven out under direct military assault. Others fled as news spread of massacres committed by Jewish militias in Palestinian villages like Deir Yassin and Tantura. Tens of thousands of shops, businesses and stores were left in Jewish hands. Many Palestinian families took with them the keys to their homes thinking they would return one day soon. Six decades later, the keys have been passed on to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

School children in Gaza City who asked me to take their photo. :-)

School children in Gaza City who asked me to take their photo. 🙂

The Nakba may be decades-old history but it lives today in every Palestinian home and in the heart of every Palestinian man, woman and child. There are approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees (those who fled in 1948-49 and their descendants) living today in 61 camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

The Nakba trauma is recounted in the history books of Palestinian students just as Israeli students learn about the Holocaust. Evidence of the Nakba can be seen in murals on major streets in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Imans’ sermons in local Mosques can be heard recounting the devastation of the Nakba.

Refugee camps.

Refugee camps.

In June 1948, David Ben Gurion unilaterally announced the State of Israel was open and ready to do business, now on 78% of the territory of the former British Mandate. This new Jewish state was expanding. The Gaza Strip, West Bank, and the Arab East Jerusalem made up the other 22%.

The UN General Assembly tried to bring closure and peace by passing Resolution 194 on December 11, 1948. The Arab member states rejected it. Resolution 194 places Jerusalem, as the center of three world religions, under international control. Israel’s acceptance as a member of the United Nations was conditioned on its acceptance of the terms of Resolution 194. The most contested provision concerns the rights of the Palestinian refugees.

Paragraph 11: Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

During the next 20 years (1948 – 1967), the Gaza Strip was ruled by Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem were ruled by Jordan.

The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964, but U.S. leaders ostracized the PLO from the first day. When Yasser Arafat was elected PLO Chairman in 1968 (or 1969?), he galvanized the Palestinians and gave them a voice even though they did not have a state of their own. Arafat was invited to the United Nations in 1974 where he spoke about carrying both a gun and an olive branch, and pleaded with delegates, “do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” [ ] The U.S. refused to speak with the PLO until 1988.

The Six Day War in June 1967 is another bone of contention between the traditional historians and the New Historians. Whether the Arab nations were mobilizing to strike and destroy Israel, as the traditionalists assert, or Israel preemptively attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria to expand its borders and demonstrate its superiority, there is no doubt about the outcome. Israel took control of the remaining 22% of the former territory of the British mandate, including the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Following the war, in November 1967, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 242 to proclaim the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war and the need to work for a just and lasting peace in the Middle East in which every State in the area can live in security.” The PLO rejected Resolution 242 but in September 1993 agreed to support it. Resolution 242 is arguably the cornerstone for any discussions or negotiations between Israel, the Palestinians and their Arab neighbors because it firmly checks Israel’s plans for expansion and provides legitimacy to the Palestinians’ claims.

Palestinians living under Occupation - many are held per administrative detention without charges or evidence brought against them.

Palestinians living under Occupation – many are held per administrative detention without charges or evidence brought against them.

Israel’s military control of the lands it captured in the 1967 Six Day War is called an Occupation.  To Palestinians and hardcore activists, this is so elementary that it needs no explanation. To most Americans, and even some Jews, the Occupation is either a new concept because the Western media rarely mentions it or it may be considered a hurtful and anti-Semitic term because it challenges Israelis’ version of history and the core beliefs of many Israelis about their country.

Spending time in Gaza, I witnessed how the Nakba (1948) and the Occupation (1967) live within the Palestinians today. These are much more than history lessons in a schoolchild’s textbook. Their identity and culture, even their dreams and goals for the future, are wrapped up in the injustices perpetrated during the Nakba and continuing to the present for those living under Occupation.

Traditional Israeli historians, and many Israeli politicians, assert time and time again that Palestinians do not want peace; they are monolithic in their desire and determination to fight with the ultimate goal of destroying Israel. The New Historians dispute this claim.

A lost opportunity came in January 1976 when the PLO went to the UN Security Council with a proposal for two states (Israel and Palestine) with Palestinians accepting the remaining 22% of the territory that had been divided in 1948.  Israel refused to attend the meeting and the U.S. vetoed the resolution. At that time, the U.S. was still not talking with the PLO.

Egypt normalized relations with Israel in 1978 when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed the Camp David Accords at the White House. For their efforts, they shared the Nobel Peace Prize. Israel returned the portion of the Sinai it had captured in the Six Day War to Egypt with strict conditions about keeping it a demilitarized zone; and the U.S. promised to provide lots of money and military equipment to both Israel and Egypt, which it continues to do to this day. [ ] The Camp David Accords angered Palestinians and many Arab nations. Egypt was expelled from the Arab League and Sadat was murdered in 1981 by members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

The Occupation became firmly entrenched in the 1970s and 1980s. Jewish settlements grew in the West Bank and Gaza (the occupied Palestinian territories), and the Israeli military transformed itself into an Occupation force to protect the settlers and keep the Palestinians subdued.  A new generation of stateless Palestinian refugees was growing up under the oppressive humiliation of Occupation.  The international community, by and large, remained silent.

On December 8, 1987, an Israeli truck swerved and killed four Palestinians at a busy checkpoint in the Gaza Strip – a doctor, an engineer, and two laborers. [ ] Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank were outraged and the Intifada (“rising up” in Arabic) was sparked. It was spontaneous and probably caught Palestinian leaders and the PLO off-guard, but it became organized very quickly. This was a genuine grassroots resistance movement to the Occupation.

Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, was founded in 1987 during the Intifada, which raged on for the next six years. In 1988, the Palestinian National Council (the legislative branch of the PLO) voted to accept two states with Palestine on the remaining 22%, and declared Palestine’s independence. The international community was silent. [I want to know more about this.]

The First Intifada came to an end in 1993 with the beginning of the Oslo Peace Process. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Declaration of Principles at the White House on September 13, 1993. They thought they were setting up a five-year transition process during which time the Israeli military would begin to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza, a new Palestinian National Authority would be created to assume control of parts of the occupied territories, and the parties would use this time to negotiate issues about final borders, the rights of refugees, Jerusalem, settlements and security.

Indeed, the Palestinian Authority (PA) was created but nothing else. For their efforts, Rabin, Peres and Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

PART II to follow.


Filed under Gaza, Israel, People

25 responses to “History of Palestine – Part 1

  1. My family members always say that I am wasting my time here at web, but I know I am getting knowledge daily by reading thes nice posts.

  2. To better understand Michael who wants nothing to do with the truth that is being progressively publicized globally about the Zionist Movement of the past 150 years, this article
    and this one
    might wake some people up.

    • John: I just read your bio-profile. What a fascinating life journey! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

      • Thanks, Lora, I am sure your own life has ben equally interesting. I’d like to know where our friend Michael is coming from. I run into Israelis who seem to be paid by the Mossad with US State Department funds to attack such information as is being presented on your site. Now changing http://forward.com/articles/182171/israels-everyday-racism-and-how-american-jews-tu/

      • It makes no difference whether Mossad or anyone else is reading and commenting on my blog. I treat the comments as a game of catch — I toss the ball to see who catches it, and if someone responds (returns the ball) then I play. If someone is not interested in playing but merely spouting rhetoric or inflammatory nonsense, I don’t bother trying to catch the ball.
        I’m interested in an intelligent conversation — learning from each other. I’ve learned that many people aren’t.

      • I have actually praised Lora for posting an excellent summary of the modern history of Israel – Jews willing to give up pretty much everything for peace and Arabs refusing anything short of Jew-free Israel.

        I would also like to thank you, John, for your weblog, I’ve had a blast reading it. You’ve managed to fuse every conspiracy theory into a unifiyng theory of conspiracies. “Zionists are […] using oppressed Jewish people as pawns in the Roman Empire’s game of Crusades to Jerusalem to find the Holy Grail”. That’s dynamite!

        If you want to know where I’m coming from, you’re welcome to read my weblog 😉

      • Michael, You read what you want to read and ignore what doesn’t fit your paradigm you described in your reply. There is no discussion to be had here. And no praise needed. I only have sympathy for you and anyone else who is so blinded.

      • Well, Lora, I am open for discussion. You know your history, you’ve shown that much. You obviously know the Arab point of view better than I do, and there are a couple of things I don’t understand properly. Could you elaborate on a couple of points in your next post?

        Was the occupation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza by Jordan and Egypt also called occupation in that time, and was it condemned by the international community?

        The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964, when there was no Israeli occupation. Which parts of Palestine did they want to liberate? Were they opposing the Egyptian and Jordanian occupation?

        Why no Palestinian state was established during the 20 years after 1948, when Arabs had control of all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza?

        What happened to the Jewish residents of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion (and Baghdad, Tripoli, Tunis etc.) after 1948, and will they be allowed to come back to their homes if there is a peace agreement in which the cease-fire lines of 1948 become borders?

        Perhaps John can write a guest-post, further explaining his stand point that its OK to indiscriminately kill Israelis as Israel has no civilians, being fully militarized society.

      • Was the occupation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza by Jordan and Egypt also called occupation in that time, and was it condemned by the international community?

        The simple answer is no … and no. As far as I know, neither Jordan nor Egypt were considered belligerent powers by the indigenous population.

        Definition of a Military Occupation – “Military occupation occurs when a belligerent state invades the territory of another state with the intention of holding the territory at least temporarily. While hostilities continue, the occupying state is prohibited by International Law from annexing the territory or creating another state out of it, but the occupying state may establish some form of military administration over the territory and the population. Under the Martial Law imposed by this regime, residents are required to obey the occupying authorities and may be punished for not doing so. Civilians may also be compelled to perform a variety of nonmilitary tasks for the occupying authorities, such as the repair of roads and buildings, provided such work does not contribute directly to the enemy war effort.

        Although the power of the occupying army is broad, the military authorities are obligated under international law to maintain public order, respect private property, and honor individual liberties. Civilians may not be deported to the occupant’s territory to perform forced labor nor impressed into military service on behalf of the occupying army. Although measures may be imposed to protect and maintain the occupying forces, existing laws and administrative rules are not to be changed. Regulations of the Hague Conventions of 1907 and, more importantly, the 1949 geneva convention for the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War have attempted to codify and expand the protection afforded the local population during periods of military occupation.

        The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was established in 1964, when there was no Israeli occupation. Which parts of Palestine did they want to liberate? Were they opposing the Egyptian and Jordanian occupation?

        I believe in the early years, the PLO was trying to liberate the entire lands of Palestine (including what we know now as the state of Israel) because they viewed the Jews as thieves who stole their land and violently dispossessed 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, farms, businesses in 1948 (The Nakba). In 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist in peace, accepted UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and rejected “violence and terrorism”; in response, Israel officially recognized the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people.

        Why no Palestinian state was established during the 20 years after 1948, when Arabs had control of all of Judea, Samaria and Gaza?

        Good question but complex and beyond my limited historical education. I have hunches, but I don’t know for sure and don’t want to speculate.

        What happened to the Jewish residents of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion (and Baghdad, Tripoli, Tunis etc.) after 1948, and will they be allowed to come back to their homes if there is a peace agreement in which the cease-fire lines of 1948 become borders?

        I suspect the fate of the 22 settlements (70,000 people in 2011) that make up Gush Etzion today are part of the items under negotiation and we will have to wait to see if there is an agreement. What hurts many Palestinians (and is mind-boggling to me) is that a Jew anywhere in the world can settle in the State of Israel today, become an Israeli citizen, no questions asked. But a Palestinian whose grandfather, great-grandfather lived and owned property inside what we now know as the State of Israel, cannot return to visit, much less claim compensation for the losses. Many Palestinians still have keys to their families’ houses in the State of Israel.

        I believe there will never be a lasting, durable peace until Israel does two things: apologizes and compensates the Palestinian refugees. The US largesse to Israel ($3 Billion per year — and some have said it’s closer to $5 Billion per year) would be much better spent on building a fund to compensate the Palestinian refugees, than on equipping the Israeli military.

      • Thank you for your reply. Let me see if I understand it correctly.

        According to the definition of occupation you provide, the control of Judea, Samaria and Gaza by Egypt and Jordan was indeed occupation. And this occupation went on without the slightest protest. Although one can argue there was no state in those territories at the time, and therefore no occupation occurred. In which case, of course, there is no Israeli occupation as well.

        If the PLO wanted to liberate the entire lands of Palestine, I’d like to see proof of their struggle against the Jordanian and Egyptian occupation prior to 1967. Otherwise, I must conclude that the PLO is established with the single goal of destroying the State of Israel. Every single map of Palestine they ever drawn includes all of Israel, so there’s no basis to the claims they recognize the State of Israel.

        You have no answer as to why no Palestinian state was established during the 20 years after 1948. Shame, because it is a pivotal question, an essential one. The Arabs had an opportunity, yet didn’t use it. There was no Israeli occupation, yet there was terror against Israel. Unless there is an adequate answer to why did the Arabs fail to create a Palestinian state when they had all the means, there can be no answer as to why the Jews should establish one.

        And in your answer to the last question, you ignore the statements of the Arab leaders that “there will be not a single Jew left in Palestine”, ignore the part of my question about the Jews of Jerusalem, expelled by the Jordanians during their occupation, and ignore the fate of the Jews expelled from the Arab states after 1948, after having lived there for thousands of years. Any account of the history of the conflict must at least mention these people and any just solution must address their sufferings and the injustices inflicted upon them. What about the Jewish lives, houses and businesses in Baghdad, Tripoli, Tunis and innumerable other cities and villages that the Jews were cleansed out of?

        As to the US aid to Israel, as far as I know, it is a condition of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Unless you want that peace agreement revoked, I suggest to leave this aid out.

        I believe there will never be a lasting, durable peace until the Arabs apologize and compensate the Jewish refugees. And I believe there is no point in creating another Arab state in a time when they are exploding one by one. What good is there in signing peace agreements with dictators if their followers can revoke them on a whim?

        Hope I have given you something to chew on.

      • Michael: I really don’t want to spend time chewing. I’m willing to keep an open mind and learn new things, but you aren’t giving me new things, only warped interpretations of what I have shared.

        “Occupation” is a legal term under international law which requires belligerency – hostility. No doubt, Israel’s occupation is belligerent and hostile and the Fourth Geneva Convention applies. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its civilian population into the territories it occupies. That’s why the international community condemns Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

        If you want to search more about the history of the PLO …. I welcome you to do it. Begin with Israel’s recognition of the PLO, that might surprise you. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/recogn.html

        There are statements from both sides …. Palestinians who want to rid the land of every Israeli, and Israelis who want to rid the land of every Palestinian. I’m not going to engage in that endless chatter with you. It’s unproductive.

        If you want to enlarge the history lesson to the pain and suffering that Jews have suffered around the world, then there will be many volumes to read. I don’t discount that suffering. But the Palestinians are not responsible for that suffering, for the Holocaust, for the current criticism by the international community.

        My bottom line — the occupation must end, both for the sake of the Palestinians but also for the survival of the State of Israel. Lets drop this tit-for-tat.

      • Lora, you’re just ignoring my comments and questions. I agree that there can be no meaningful dialogue this way.

        You ignore the 20-year long Arab occupation of Judea, Samaria and Gaza and the fact they could have had a Palestinian state if they only wanted to.

        The definition of occupation you provided includes a state, that doesn’t exist in Judea and Samaria (Gaza is not occupied).

        The Israelis living in Judea and Samaria are there of their free will, not transferred by force, so nothing illegal there.

        As to the Jewish refugees, those expelled from the Muslim countries where they lived for thousands of years, I bring them into the discussion because they were expelled as a revenge for the Arab defeat of 1948 and they ended up in Israel, which took care of them. Unlike the Arab countries, who still hold their brothers and sisters captive in ghettos.

        My bottom line – there is no occupation, there is a Palestinian state called Jordan (the Arabs of Judea and Samaria are citizens of that state), the survival of the State of Israel is guaranteed by the solid principles of freedom, equality and democracy upon which Israel is built. Have a nice day.

  3. [Moderator, here is a simpler version of my last attempt, you can choose]:
    For Michael and the Herzl vision of a European Jewish empire from Bagdad to Alexandria:
    A Diverse Collection of Peoples
    Daniel Lazare
    The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books. After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.
    So says the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, issued in Tel Aviv on 14 May 1948. Shlomo Sand’s last two books have questioned the document’s assumptions: were the Jews ‘forcibly exiled’ or did they go abroad in search of new opportunities? If they ‘never ceased to pray and hope for their return’, why did so few bother to visit their homeland for centuries on end? How do we know that the people who ‘kept faith’ throughout the Diaspora were the same as the ones who headed out to begin with? Did they share the same genes? Or were they as far removed from the original Jews as, say, Polish Galicians are from the Galicians of Spain?
    In The Invention of the Jewish People, Sand sought to demythologise his people’s identity. It was a bestseller in Israel and won the Prix Aujourd’hui in France. Eric Hobsbawm called it a ‘much needed exercise in the dismantling of nationalist historical myth’. Sand’s new book, The Invention of the Land of Israel, aims to trace the concept of a Jewish homeland from the vague territorial references of the Torah to today’s armed and embattled Jewish state. The concept has evolved over the years. While Genesis 15 promised that Abraham’s offspring would rule ‘from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates’, the actual kingdom of Judah, from which the term ‘Jew’ derives, was never more than a hilltop duchy some thirty miles across. Yet today it is the coastal plain, formerly the haunt of the Philistines, that is in the hands of the Zionists, and Judah for the most part is in the hands of the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank. So what exactly is this ‘land of Israel’ that everyone argues about, what are its boundaries, and how did it come about?
    Sand has set out to explicate the history of a land and a people – or, rather, the idea of a land and a people, since the actual population has changed so much. It’s an ambitious and tricky undertaking. While it’s still permissible to question this or that aspect of Israeli policy, criticism of Zionism as a whole is all too often declared off-limits, and not only by the Anti-Defamation League, so for many people Sand’s attempt to break down Zionism’s ideological assumptions goes beyond the pale. Yet with the Middle East reminiscent of the pre-1914 Balkans, going beyond the pale is not only permissible but de rigueur. Somebody has to figure out how the storm arose, and since Zionism is a big part of the story, there’s no reason for it to be shielded from criticism. The more some people try to bar the door, the more others can’t help wondering what they’re hiding.
    Sand’s investigation is more than justified, and it would be nice to report that his effort is subtle, sober and perceptive, as wide-ranging as it is morally serious. But it isn’t. Hobsbawm and the rest notwithstanding, The Invention of the Jewish People was a messy polemic – helter-skelter, tendentious and ill-informed. The Invention of the Land of Israel is better and winds up with a discussion of Zionist territorial ambitions that places Israeli policy in a new light. But it is undermined by a shaky concept of Jewish history. Sand rightly insists on the relevance of the ancient past to contemporary politics, but his distortions are an obstacle to a full understanding of the modern Israeli-Palestinian predicament.
    Sand’s problem is that he works from a photographic negative of Zionist ideology. If an idea ‘conforms with the Zionist meta-narrative’, as he puts it, then it must be false. If Zionists, like all nationalists, idealise the nation and insist that it is continuous, unbroken and eternal, then there must have been a rupture at some point between the Jews of the Bible and the so-called Jews of today. If Zionism preaches a glorious history going back to the days of David and Solomon, then that history must be a fiction cooked up centuries later for ideological purposes. If Zionism maintains that Jews longed to go home, then they must have been content to stay put. And if Zionists base their claim to the land of Israel on the Hebrew Bible, then the Bible must be an ‘anti-patriotic’ document that is silent on the question of a Jewish homeland. As Sand writes in The Invention of the Land of Israel, ‘the idea of patriotism that developed in the northern Mediterranean basin was barely known on its southern shores and known even less in the Fertile Crescent.’ The biblical basis for the Jewish state is nil.
    Sand is wrong on many points, among them the lessons he draws from the archaeological revolution that began to unfold in the 1980s. Earlier archaeologists had accepted the biblical narrative as more or less accurate, taking it for granted that a flight from Egypt had occurred, followed by a conquest of Canaan under Joshua. But then the narrative fell apart: researchers were unable to find evidence of a Hebrew presence in Egypt at any time, much less the 13th century BCE when the Exodus was most likely to have occurred. The country’s eastern frontier turned out to have been especially well fortified during that period: border guards monitored the comings and goings even of ‘Shasu’ nomads. So why was there nothing about a mass escape of Hebrew slaves? Searches of sites where the Israelites were said to have camped during their forty years in the wilderness came up dry. So did surveys conducted elsewhere in the Sinai. After the 1967 war, when Israeli archeologists gained access to the West Bank, the heartland of ancient Israelite culture, they expected to find the rich cities of the Book of Joshua. But instead they found evidence only of a society impoverished by centuries of Egyptian taxation. Jericho turned out to have been poor and unfortified in the 14th century BCE and totally abandoned in the 13th, when its walls supposedly came tumbling down. The city of Ai, whose destruction is celebrated in Joshua 8, was also found to have been abandoned. The same was true for Gibeon, Kephirah, Beeroth and Kiriath Jearim, mentioned in Joshua 9:17. All were empty. Extensive land surveys revealed something even less expected: a development pattern that, beginning around 1200 BCE, was entirely self-generated. Instead of being implanted from outside, the Israelite hilltop culture had grown up entirely on its own.
    Such findings should have been a godsend for Sand since they showed that the Israelites, far from conquering the whole of Canaan, had taken root in one very small corner. And indeed The Invention of the Jewish People eagerly trumpets the discovery of the archaeologist Israel Finkelstein, the foremost proponent of the new archaeology, that the conquest of Canaan never occurred and that the dual monarchy of David and Solomon, supposedly the wonder of the ancient world, was a myth. But Sand also endorses the hyper-sceptical ‘biblical minimalism’ of Philip Davies, Thomas Thompson and Niels Peter Lemche, which regards such findings as irrelevant since, as they see it, the early history of Israel is actually a fiction that returnees from the Babylonian exile made up after the sixth century BCE. Sand seems unaware of the conflict between the two views or of the fact that Finkelstein and the journalist Neil Asher Silberman issued a stinging rebuttal of the minimalist stance in 2006. David may have been little more than a hilltop chieftain, but contrary to the minimalists, the discovery in 1993 of a ninth-century BCE Aramaic victory inscription referring to a royal ‘House of David’ leaves little doubt that he was a real historical figure.
    Sand’s discussion of the issue of Jewish conversion is equally confused. Since Zionism plays up the Jews as ‘a people apart’, Sand emphasises the continual infusions of new blood; or, to put it differently, the waves of racial ‘adulteration’ that repeatedly washed over the diaspora, submerging whatever ties it may have had with the homeland. North Africa, he writes, was the scene of an ‘amazing … new wave of Judaisation’ in late antiquity as Berbers and remnants of the old Phoenician stock adopted Judaism wholesale. A Jewish Berber priestess known as Dihya al-Kahina led the Jewish tribes in a great anti-Arab resistance movement in the late seventh century. Al-Kahina ‘was a strong ruler’, Sand writes, ‘and in 689, when the Muslims launched their renewed effort to conquer North Africa, she united several powerful tribes and succeeded in defeating the mighty forces of Hassan ibn al-Nu’man.’ How does Sand know she was Jewish? Well, the renowned Moroccan polymath Ibn Khaldun says she was in his account of the Berbers in his great historical compendium, Al-’Ibar. That Ibn Khaldun was writing in the late 14th century, nearly seven hundred years after the Arab conquest, doesn’t give Sand pause. It doesn’t trouble him either that Ibn Khaldun describes the Berbers as once having been ruled by the biblical Goliath or that earlier chroniclers do not so much as hint at Al-Kahina’s Jewish identity. A sensational revelation that comes to light centuries after the fact would normally raise an eyebrow or two. Instead, Sand accuses the Israeli historian Haim Ze’ev Hirschberg of succumbing to a ‘purifying essentialist ideology’ for daring to suggest that evidence of Berber Judaisation is ‘extremely flimsy’. Given Sand’s disregard for the normal rules of evidence, it’s difficult not to sympathise with Hirschberg.
    Sand’s next step in The Invention of the Jewish People is to establish that the Yiddish-speaking Jews of Eastern Europe are actually Khazars, descendants of a Turkic tribal federation that adopted Judaism, probably in the mid-eighth century, in order to distance itself from both the Byzantine Empire and the caliphate. Reports of a Jewish empire somewhere on the Pontic-Caspian steppe have long stirred the imagination. They have also stirred speculation about a connection with the subsequent Jewish population surge in Poland, Hungary and the Ukraine. Where did the Khazars go once their empire melted away? Did they adopt Islam or Christianity? Or, pushed westward by the Mongol invasions, did they become the Ashkenazim, who, even after the Holocaust, still account for some 80 per cent of world Jewry?
    The Khazar thesis was made famous by Arthur Koestler in The Thirteenth Tribe (1976).It is tempting from an anti-Zionist perspective because, if true, it would mean that today’s Jews have no special historical claim to Palestine, especially compared with the Palestinians, whose kinship ties to the people of the Bible are probably a good deal stronger. But is it true? In fact, we know very little about this ‘steppe Atlantis’, as the Soviet historian Lev Gumilev called it. The Khazars’ adoption of Judaism is not in dispute: in 837-38 the empire issued imitation Abbasid dirhams stamped with the Muslim-influenced formula, ‘There is no god but God and Moses is his messenger.’ But the question of the depth of Khazar Judaism – whether it was confined to a narrow ruling-class stratum or filtered down to the population at large – is another matter. D.M. Dunlop, whose History of the Jewish Khazars (1954) marks the starting point for modern Khazar studies, argued that the federation, like other steppe empires, was fast-growing and powerful, but at the same time shallow and unstable. Drawing its income from taxes, tolls and tribute, a military elite was able to keep things together only as long as it could manage a complex chequerboard of ethnic forces. Dunlop described the array: ‘Nomads of the steppes, townsmen of the capital and other cities … cultivators and hunters from the western provinces, Turks, Jews and Arabs, as well as men of Slav and Finnish or kindred race … presided over by an aristocracy, whom we may call the White Khazars, consisting of a relatively small number of partially Judaised Turks’. The elite held on for three centuries, a long time for the steppe, and blocked the caliphate from expanding across the Caucasus. But around 965, the Khazars were defeated by the Rus, and vanished as an independent political force.
    What legacy did they leave? Dunlop quotes the Persian explorer and geographer Ahmad ibn Rustah, who around 903 wrote that the Judaism of the Khazars was a thoroughly upper-class affair: ‘Their supreme ruler is a Jew, and likewise the Isha [vizier] and those of the generals and the chief men who follow his way of thinking.’ But the rank and file, he said, adhered to traditional Turkish beliefs. Dunlop cites another Persian geographer, Al-Istakhri, who about thirty years later wrote that ‘though the king and his court are Jews’, the rest of the population was either Christian or Muslim. If such reports are true, then Judaism’s impact was slight. According to Dunlop it isn’t implausible that the entire Khazar elite went over to the Islamic side in an attempt to drum up support for the battle against the Rus. In the end, all he’ll say is that ‘to speak of the Jews of Eastern Europe as descendants of the Khazars … would be to go much beyond what our imperfect records allow.’ So the Khazar thesis is unsupported by the documentary evidence.
    But Sand is undeterred. ‘The Khazar kingdom,’ he writes, ‘remained Jewish for too long … not to warrant the assumption that the practice and the faith trickled down to broader strata.’ Yet he offers no evidence other than the report of a 12th-century German rabbi that local people in a nearby area known as Kedar (located most likely in today’s eastern Ukraine) spent their Sabbaths eating sliced bread in the dark, but were otherwise ignorant of the Jewish prayers and the Talmud. Sand quotes the mid-20th-century historian Salo Wittmayer Baron, who wrote that Khazaria Jews ‘began drifting into the open steppes of Eastern Europe’ after the fall of the empire, and helped lay ‘the foundations for a Jewish community which, especially in 16th-century Poland, outstripped all the other contemporary areas of Jewish settlement’. Sand concludes that Baron is in agreement with the Israeli historian Ben-Zion Dinur that Khazaria was the ‘diaspora mother’ of East European Jewry. Baron insists, Sand writes, that ‘the “born Jews” who were in Khazaria before it was Judaised’ laid the foundations for Polish Judaism, but otherwise assumes ‘that the majority of the Yiddish people did not originate in Germany but in the Caucasus, the Volga steppes, the Black Sea and the Slav countries.’
    But Baron assumes no such thing. On the contrary, he writes that with just five thousand people or so as of the year 1300, the Polish Jewish population remained minuscule long after the Khazar empire had faded from memory. Only later – much later – did Polish Jewish numbers start to rise, reaching 30,000 in the year 1500, 150,000 in 1576, and then 450,000 in 1648. This is half a millennium after the Khazar empire’s demise, so what did the one have to do with the other? Once immigration began to accelerate, Baron leaves no doubt as to where it came from:
    A major propelling force was the progressive shrinkage of the outlets still open to German Jews in the territories of the Bohemian Crown and Hungary during the 16th century. In fact, the numerous local expulsions from Bohemia and Moravia, the decline of Hungary, and its final division into Habsburg, Ottoman and Transylvanian sections after 1526 sent out new waves of Jewish wanderers looking for havens of refuge. The Czech areas now became the main source of Jewish manpower entering first western Poland, and then the other still greatly underpopulated provinces of the Polish Crown and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania … Because of their superiority in numbers, wealth and cultural attainments, the new arrivals succeeded, within a relatively short time, in imposing their own rituals, customs and speech upon the local Jews. Even the segment which had originally come from Khazar, Byzantine or Muslim lands became totally submerged in the new Polish-Lithuanian community organised by the Western immigrants.
    Despite Sand’s efforts to enlist him in the Khazar cause, Baron maintains that it was German Jewish immigration from the west that overwhelmed the older Jewish presence from the east and not the other way around.
    Sand dismisses the possibility that Polish Jewish population growth could have been internally generated, but Baron notes that Polish Jews didn’t serve in the military, didn’t practise celibacy and may have derived certain health benefits from the kosher food laws. In 1618, a Polish anti-semite called Sebastyan Miczyński complained that Jews ‘multiply enormously, for they do not die in wars, they run away before the “air” [i.e. pestilence], and marry very early’. The 18th-century Polish Jewish philosopher Salomon Maimon claimed to have been married at the age of 11 and become a father at the age of 14, while Baron writes that many Jewish parents rushed their children into marriage before the tsarist government could crack down on the practice in 1853. The Polish economy was booming prior to the mid-17th century and conditions for Jews were highly favourable, so internal population growth of this magnitude is hardly unimaginable.
    Distortions like these are unfortunate because Sand is essentially correct in arguing that Jews aren’t the people apart that Zionist ideology makes them out to be. But the infusion of foreign genes didn’t occur at the end of the journey, as the Khazar thesis suggests: it occurred at the beginning, as Judaism began to coalesce out of a diffuse ‘Yahwist’ milieu extending across much of the ancient world.
    Sand thinks of Jewish influence as proceeding in one direction only: from Judah outwards. He tries to show that the notion that the Jews were forcibly expelled from their homeland after the abortive Jerusalem revolt of 66 to 70 is a myth and that many simply drifted off in search of economic opportunity: ‘Jewry’s amazing expansion between 150 BCE and 70 CE was the result of an extensive migration of Judeans to all parts of the world … [a] dynamic, if painful, process that produced the thriving Israelite diaspora.’ Spreading the national faith, they won growing numbers to their side through strength of argument or perhaps by force. (When the Persian Jews went forth to slaughter their enemies, Esther 8:17 reports that ‘many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.’) But the more people they converted, the more the original ethnic stock was lost.
    The reality was more complex. If Sand weren’t so dismissive of biblical history, he would know that the Israelites – not quite the same thing as the Jews – did not begin as worshippers of Yahweh but of the Canaanite El. The very name ‘Israel’ means ‘El fights’ or ‘El does battle’; as the 19th-century biblical scholar Julius Wellhausen showed, it was an indication of the militancy of the Israelite faith. Only later did the Israelites adopt the cult of a non-Canaanite warrior god known as Yahweh from the Sinai or Arabah to the south. The Song of Deborah (Judges 5), a war chant dating from perhaps 1100 BCE, thus proclaims:
    O Yahweh, when you went out from Seir,
    when you marched from the land of Edom,
    the earth shook, the heavens poured,
    the clouds poured down water.
    The mountains quaked before Yahweh, the one of Sinai,
    before Yahweh, the god of Israel …
    Israel was merely one element in a growing international movement, one that in the coming centuries would spread from Iraq to southern Egypt and beyond. Moreover, what Sand refers to (after the iconoclastic biblical scholar Morton Smith) as ‘the monotheistic cult of “YHWH-alone”’ was an even smaller subset of the whole, one that other followers regarded as cranky and fanatical. Most people worshipped Yahweh in conjunction with other deities: Ashtoreth and Molech for Solomon; Baal for the ninth-century Phoenician princess Jezebel (though she gave her three children proper Yahwist names); and Anat in the case of a fifth-century BCE Israelite military colony on the island of Elephantine in the Upper Nile. Only the Yahweh-alone party insisted on worshipping him in isolation. Eventually the exclusivists won out, but the process may not have been complete until the Idumean-Roman king Herod finished building a vast new temple in 19 BCE, establishing Jerusalem as the foremost site of pilgrimage in the Roman world.
    The words ‘Judean’ and ‘Jew’ did not mean the same thing. One denoted a native of Judea, to use the Latin term for Judah, and the other referred to any Yahwist who genuflected toward Jerusalem. Jews were a religion rather than a nation and, in the New Testament, Jews included everyone from Parthians and Medes to Arabs, Egyptians and Libyans: the entire ethnic panoply from Persia to Rome (Acts 2:9-11). There was no original ethnic stock to dilute, but instead a diverse collection of peoples who looked to Jerusalem as their religious capital but made their homes elsewhere.
    Confessional boundaries were at the same time vague. There were Jews; semi-Jews who sacrificed to Yahweh but resisted taking the final step of circumcision; fellow travellers like the Arabs; Christians who continued to visit Jewish synagogues well into the Middle Ages, and so forth. Lines eventually hardened as the rabbis took the reins with the establishment of the Pax Islamica following the Abbasid revolution of 750. But it was probably not until early modern Poland that Jews truly became the people apart of Zionist lore. At a time when Italian Jews were still inviting Christian friends to weddings, circumcisions and musical soirées (much to the Church’s chagrin), Polish Jews spoke a different language, wore different clothes, sported sidelocks and beards and, thanks to the Kabbalah, thought of themselves as existing on a higher spiritual plane. The gulf separating them from the surrounding population had never been greater. What Zionism regards as an eternal aspect of the Jewish condition was actually a product of early modernity.
    The overall trend was from a loosely defined milieu to a tightly bound legal community, and from an international cult to a scattered nation among whom religion and ethnicity were effectively combined. Sand may scorn ‘Jewish genetics’ as racist, but the latest genetic research does in fact seem to tell the same story. A 2010 study by researchers at Emory University, Johns Hopkins and the University of Texas found that Ashkenazic Jews are more genetically diverse than a comparable sample of non-Jewish Europeans, possibly because they ‘arose from a more genetically diverse Middle Eastern founder population’ than previously believed. The researchers also found that Ashkenazim were more closely related to Italians and French than to specific Middle Eastern groups such as Palestinians, Druze or Bedouins, which is consistent with a broadly eastern Mediterranean population flowing into Northern and Central Europe via Italy and the Rhone Valley.
    So today’s Jews are in significant measure descended from the Jews of classical antiquity, except that the Jews of classical antiquity were not from Judah, but from the broader region. If anything, this diverse ‘founder population’ renders the notion of a specific Jewish homeland even more dubious than Sand realises. But the question is again more complicated than he appreciates. Palestine was not the birthplace of the Jewish people, but it was the birthplace of the Yahweh-alone movement and, despite Sand’s description of the Bible as anti-patriotic, nothing was more central to the movement than the land issue. One land, one god, one people: this, in essence, was the slogan of the monolatrous – not monotheistic – movement that arose in the ninth century BCE. It was a profoundly xenophobic movement, opposed to the king and queen, Ahab and the hated Jezebel, and their expansionist policy, which threatened to dilute the state’s ethnic character; and it was obsessed with the land question because increased trade and monetisation were undermining the highland peasantry. In response, the prophet Elijah (‘Yahweh is God’), his disciple Elisha and others fashioned a holy trinity consisting of a sacred land, a chosen people and a divine landlord to see to it that they remained united in perpetuity. (The story of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21, in which Elijah predicts Jezebel’s downfall for attempting to purchase an Israelite’s property, is the crucial document in this regard, because it accuses the royal couple of using money in violation of the divine trust uniting Yahweh, the Israelite people and the holy land.) When, centuries later, in 587 BCE, the god of the hill country allowed the land to fall to the Babylonians, the exiles blamed themselves and elevated Yahweh to the status of an all-powerful universal monarch in order to compensate for their loss. For the Zionists it’s a powerful package. God gave the land to the Israelites, or so the Yahweh-alone movement maintained, and today’s nationalists believe that they have three thousand years of myth on their side in demanding exclusive ownership.
    But ownership of what? The Zionists have always been evasive about their precise territorial ambitions. Did they want the coastal plain, the whole of Palestine, or more? Since the Promised Land was a concept, they could adjust their demands to fit the circumstances. David Ben-Gurion was a maximalist who sometimes argued for a homeland extending from Palestine to the East Bank of the Jordan, as far north as Damascus and as far south as the island of Tiran at the mouth of the Gulf of Aqaba. Yet when the Peel Commission offered the Zionists a relatively small sliver of land in 1937, he grabbed it despite his colleagues’ protests: ‘The debate has not been for or against the indivisibility of Eretz Israel,’ he said. ‘No Zionist can forego the smallest portion of Eretz Israel. The debate was over which of two routes would lead quicker to the common goal.’ The Peel Commission’s offer was just the first step on the path to a greater Israel. As Chaim Weizmann said, the rest of the land was not going anywhere, and the nationalists would get to it in due course.
    The strategy can be seen as a slow-motion invasion: the settlers first gain a toehold and then take advantage of every outbreak of armed violence to enlarge their domain. First there were the scattered settlements of the Yishuv; then the establishment of a Jewish state in 1948-49; the seizure of the West Bank in 1967; and, finally, more settlements aimed at harassing the Palestinians. The latest proposal by the ultra-rightist Naftali Bennett, to annex outright the 60 per cent of the West Bank known as Area C, can be seen as the culmination of a century-long process aimed at confining the Palestinians to a few scattered outposts. Assuming the annexation goes through, more provocations will follow until ethnic cleansing is complete. The Palestinian hill country is central to the mythology of the Hebrew Bible, and the West Bank has always been the prime target. But other prizes lie not far off, and there will be no shortage of opportunities for expansion as violence envelops the Muslim world.

  4. Well, Michael, no discussion is really necessary in the RealPolitik that Israel stands upon with the full might of USNATO’s interest in Arabian oil to keep them there. The “facts on the ground” is all that matters to the Zionazis.

  5. Michael, you need to read Arthur Koestler’s “The Thirteenth Tribe”. You could use some understanding of the history of the Ashkenazi people and their lack of historic relation to Arabia, in which they have now established – with the help of USNATO – a European colony.
    There is alot more available on the margins of the sanctified media that promotes Zionism; but, you might not like it. Much of it is also by Jews who know the rarely publicized truth.

  6. Wonderful post Lora! Lot’s of detail and succinctly stated. The issue always stirs up lots of emotions, but as the old saying goes “No justice, no peace.” Namaste brother.

  7. Yes!
    This is what the US population needs to be forced to read/view/hear; but it is pushed to the margins and very few can accept this fact.
    My version of the same, based on my personal experience there and for a year, fifty years ago, ans subsequent further learning, is called, “Palestine: a Media Patch”

    • John: I deviated from my plans this afternoon to take time to read your piece. You have connected dots that I didn’t even know existed … and in a way that I’m not sure I fully understand. You have given me ALOT to chew on. Thank you.

  8. “[…] established Palestine’s first borders in 1922 with the blessing of the League of Nations” – borders that were intended for a Jewish national home and which included the Golan Heights, the area south of the Litani river and all of what’s now Jordan.

    In 1948 “war broke out” – it didn’t “break out”, the Arab states invaded Israel with the stated goal of killing every single Jew.

    “Paragraph 11: Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes…” – the refugees, not Palestinian refugees. Like the Jews who were cleansed out of Jerusalem and Gush Etzion, for example. Or Baghdad.

    “During the next 20 years (1948 – 1967), the Gaza Strip was ruled by Egypt, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem were ruled by Jordan.” – and they haven’t created a Palestinian state because?

    “The Palestinian Liberation Organization was created in 1964” – when there was no “occupation”. Which parts of Palestine do they want to liberate then?

    And whatn happened with those resolutions?

    1) The Jewish Agency accepted the division; the Arab governments in the region rejected it […]

    2) Resolution 194 […] The Arab member states rejected it.

    3) The PLO rejected Resolution 242 […]

    To me it sounds like a pattern – Jews (and later, Israelis) accepting proposals for peace, Arabs rejecting them again and again. I guess they’re not satisfied with anything less than Judenrein Palestine.

    • Michael: I appreciate you sharing your comments. You have demonstrated how the history can be so polarizing. And our interpretation of the “facts” typically shed more light on who we are rather than the correctness of our version of history.

      I don’t know how to bridge the gap in understanding the history. People who share your perspective are unlikely to want to explore the Palestinian narrative or read the New Historians.

      Many Palestinians probably have no interest in hearing your narrative of the history.

      So the big question is NOT whose narrative is more correct or more justified. The big question is how do we bridge the gap so people can move into a peaceful coexistence?

      Any ideas?

      • Actually, I do have a suggestion. People should learn the facts. History is not about narratives or bridging gaps, its about truth (as science always is). And the truth is, as you have so correctly stated, that the Jews have agreed to division of land already theirs, have agreed to propositions of dividing their homeland even further, have agreed to give up control of the cradle of their cultire and of their holiest places, just to have peace. And that the Arabs, instead of being content with 99.9% of the Middle East, with 90% of the land originally intended for the Jewish state, still want it all, time after time refusing far-reaching peace proposals. Well, now they’re too busy smashing each other’s heads to think of Israel. Maybe when they’re done fighting each other (probably in a century or two), they will take a look at the prosperous, democratic, enlightend and safe country right at their doorstep and start learning from the blasted Jews instead of trying to kill them.

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