By Andrew L. Jaffee
Note: This article may seem pedantic, but it is aimed at those who are not “insiders” on the history of the Middle East.
I keep hearing the phrase, “It’s their land,” regarding Palestinian claims to Israel. Terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad publicly assert that their aims are to reclaim every inch of Israel as part of a proposed Palestinian homeland — thereby ethnically cleansing all Jews from their own home. Unfortunately, these ownership claims are echoed by “activist” groups like the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestine Solidarity Movement, both with throngs of naïve followers on U.S. and European college campuses. The followers are too eager to take these territorial claims at face value, concentrating on pure emotion as opposed to sound historical research.
Information about the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not that hard to find. For example, take the World Almanac and Book of Facts, available in any mainstream bookstore and at most public libraries. Its profile of Israel states,*
… The Hebrews probably arrived early in the 2d millennium BC…
… Arab invaders conquered Palestine in 636. The Arabic language and Islam prevailed within a few centuries, but a Jewish minority remained…
… Jewish immigration, begun in the late 19th century, swelled in the 1930s with refugees from the Nazis; heavy Arab immigration from Syria and Lebanon also occurred. Arab opposition to Jewish immigration turned violent in 1920, 1921, 1929, and 1936. The UN General Assembly voted in 1947 to partition Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. Britain withdrew in May 1948.
Israel was declared an independent state May 14, 1948; the Arabs rejected partition. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia invaded, but failed to destroy the Jewish state, which gained territory. …
More specifically, we have evidence like the first Jewish temple (ca. 950 B.C.) and the second Jewish temple (ca. 535 B.C.), or the Biblical passages in John 1:49, Book of 1 Samuel, 13:19, Exodus 2:23, or 1 Chronicles 29:23. Israel’s terra firma is chock full of “Hebrew inscription[s] … written about 3,000 years ago.”
So we have ancient evidence of a Jewish presence in “Palestine” since 2000 BC, which can easily be found in any reputable archaeological journal. We have evidence of a continuous Jewish presence in the Holy Land. We have evidence that Arabs, not just Jews, were immigrants into the Levant. Finally, we see that Arabs violently rejected the hallowed concept of a Palestinian homeland in 1948.
According to the “activists,” Arab immigration was acceptable, but Jewish was not, despite sound Hebrew ties to the region.
When you are thinking clearly, the hype just doesn’t add up; the bias inherent in left-wing support for the Palestinian cause seems incredulous. College campuses are supposed to be devoted to the pursuit of truth via sound scientific principles. But we’re not talking about clear-thinking people, here. Emotion rules, but it is a pathos slanted towards the “underdog,” as Palestinians are perceived.
As much of the left-wing causes are rooted in a desire to relive the American civil rights and anti-Apartheid movements, the “activists” see the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as literally black (Palestinians) vs. white (Jews). Again, there is a lack of clear thinking here, as both Jews and Arabs are Semitic peoples. The non-violent tactics successfully practiced by Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi, supposedly left-wing textbook examples of resistance to oppression, are tossed out the door while Arab armies threaten Israel’s existence, and homicide bombers continually target Jewish and Arab Israeli civilians.
It is quite difficult to have any type of constructive discourse with the “activists,” as they aren’t even living in (historical) reality.
* The World Almanac and Book of Facts 2002, World Almanac Education Group, Inc., New York, NY, 2002, pp. 808-817.