HOW TO AVOID DOOMSDAY – 2
Misconceptions about Palestine
By RALPH DOBRIN
Excerpt from book “How to avoid Doomsday”
In many circles, Palestine is said to be a small strip of land in the Middle East that rightfully belongs to the Arabs – those living in Palestine itself, and another few million whose parents, grandparents and great-grandparents once lived in Palestine but who were thrown out of the land during the various wars with Israel and have remained refugees for three generations now. All these people call themselves Palestinians, which is what everyone else – including most Israelis – calls them.
Yet, there never has never been an independent state named “Palestine.” The land about which so much international attention has been focused for the last few generations had been inhabited by a number of races, including Canaanites and Philistines, until the Children of Israel appeared – for a second time – following their Exodus from Egypt. From that time in about 1,300 B.C. the Jews gradually became a dominant people in the region, establishing Judea and the Land of Israel, until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. Sixty-five years later, following a final revolt by the Jews against the Romans during Emperor Hadrian’s reign, the name of the country, “Judea,” was changed to the “Province of Syria Palaestina” (named after the Philistines who had lived in the coastal areas a thousand years earlier), and the Jewish population was drastically reduced through mass killings, destruction of villages and exile. In his anger against the revolt, Hadrian forbade Jews from coming anywhere near their eternal capital Jerusalem, which he renamed Aelia Capitolina. Nevertheless, many Jews remained in the country, continuing to dwell mainly in Galilee, Golan, the Jericho area and elsewhere.
This was the beginning of the long exile and loss of any semblance of sovereignty, which lasted until the middle of the Twentieth Century. During this entire period, the Jews constantly maintained a strong emotional and spiritual bond with the Land as well as physical presence as a minority. For many generations until 1948, a Palestinian was someone who lived in Palestine, irrespective of whether the person was an Arab or a Jew.
During the following centuries two new, major religious systems that had a central connection to Judaism, were the established. Christianity, whose first adherents were Jews; and Islam, whose founder Mohammed incorporated many Jewish teachings and biblical legends into his teachings.
With the conquest of Palestine by the Muslims, many Jews and Christians gradually converted to Islam. The heavy jizya tax imposed on non-Muslims was an effective inducement. Also with the conquest came thousands of people from the Arabian Peninsula as soldiers and administrators. Over the centuries there was a steady influx of Muslims from other parts of the Middle East and Asia Minor, until the twentieth century, when Jewish immigration and the British Mandate boosted the lethargic former Ottoman economy, attracting additional hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the neighboring Arab countries. As a result of all this, a large percentage of today’s Arab population within Israel, Judea, Samaria and Gaza, have either Jewish roots or roots from far-away lands. This contradicts the claim by many Palestinian leaders that most of them are of Canaanite stock.
The relationship of Christianity and Islam towards the Jews has invariably been an unhappy one. As a subject people wherever they dwelt inside or outside the Land of Israel, they faced attitudes ranging from resigned tolerance, dislike and disdain to genocidal hatred. Racial antipathy towards minorities (which is what Jews became wherever they dwelt) is a common attitude in most parts of the world. Also religious teachings played no small part in the antipathy towards Jews. Until the first part of the Twentieth Century this was more so among Christian communities than in the Muslim world, although in the scriptures of both religions, the Jews are cast in a decidedly negative light. After the Nazi era that ended in 1945, much of the Christian world adopted a more tolerant attitude towards the Jews and Israel. However, a large part of the Muslim world, in its rejection of Israel’s existence as a sovereign state on land once ruled by Muslims, has adopted an attitude of implacable enmity towards Israel and the Jews.
Also, in the last few decades there has been a resurgence of increasingly strident anti-Israel sentiment by a large part of the Western (nominally and practising Christian) World.
On the face of it, the present-day animosity by Muslims and many Christians towards Israel is said to be caused by the military occupation of Palestine by Israel and the resulting plight of the Palestinian people. Palestine has become a buzz word denoting the call for human rights for Arabs of the region, and opprobrium towards Israel for perceived brutality and for preventing the establishment of an independent Arab state on land that was illegally taken from them; and even the acceptance of mass killings of Jewish civilians by Arabs, while conscientiously eschewing the word “terrorism” even when their actions tally exactly with definitions in the dictionary.
It is interesting to note, however, that nowhere in the Old or New Testaments is there any mention of the name Palestine or Palestinians, while Judea and the Land of Israel appears hundreds of times. Of even greater significance is the total absence of the words “Palestine,” “Palestinians” or “Palestine people” in the Koran, even though Israel is mentioned 52 times in this book venerated by a billion and a half Muslims throughout the world.
But ignoring these facts, the word “Palestinians” in current parlance refers exclusively to Arabs, while concurrently forgotten is the fact that “Palestine,” is really the designation of Judea and Samaria. Completely overlooked when using these loaded terms are a number of readily verifiable facts that cast doubt on the exactitude of these terms.
For instance, the well-known Israeli English-language daily newspaper “The Jerusalem Post,” was called “The Palestine Post” from its inception in 1932 until 1948. It was run and owned exclusively by Jews who clearly saw themselves as Palestinians.
One of Israel’s major banks Bank Leumi had its origin in London in 1899 as the financial instrument of the Zionist Organization, and was called the Anglo-Palestine Bank. The bank had branches in Jaffa, Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad, Haifa and Tiberias. The owners of the Bank were Jews and most of its customers and staff were Jews, who regarded themselves as Palestinians.
In March 1923 a prominent Zionist figure Pinhas Rutenberg, set up a company to generate and supply electricity for the Jewish towns and villages, which was called “The Palestine Electricity Corporation Limited.” After the State of Israel was established, it became “The Israel Electric Corporation Limited.”
The renowned Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which was founded in 1936 by some 70 Palestinian Jews, and was originally called the “Palestine Symphony Orchestra.”
During World War II the British Army enlisted Palestinians and the corps was called the Palestine Regiment, which was formed by three Jewish battalions (known as the Jewish Brigade) and an Arab battalion. All were regarded as Palestinians.
So the name “Palestine,” dubbed in fury by the Roman Empiror, in order to wipe out the memory of Judea as a Jewish land almost nineteen hundred years ago, is now being used with great effectiveness to camouflage the often clearly-expressed intention of Arabs, Muslims and others to bring about an end to the Jewish state, and thus continue the Second Century efforts of Emperor Hadrian.
It is understandable that the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, should have wanted their national independence, or at least to be part of a sovereign Arab state. One can also appreciate their deep unwillingness to be ruled by Jews, whom they traditionally regard as an inferior people.
At the same time it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the word “Palestine,” once equally associated with local Jews, has now become a heavily-loaded political slogan in itself. Significantly, in the year 2000, Yasser Arafat, sitting with Pope John Paul II during his pilgrimage to Bethlehem, the birthplace of David and Jesus, proclaimed unabashedly that Christ – a quintessential Jew if there ever was one – was a Palestinian! In a way he might have been right. After all, a Palestinian used to be anyone who lived in this land. Although Hadrian’s name-change of the country came after Jesus left this physical world.
But Arafat’s statement is significant because he clearly wasn’t referring to Jesus as a Jew. His assertion reflects the unremitting quest to remove all Jewish connection from this land, through a cynical disregard for historical facts or present reality. Palestine has become a lot more than just a geographical area in the Arab-dominated Middle East. Sadly, what could have been a separate, independent political entity in 1948, existing side by side with a newly-established Jewish state, and working for the mutual benefit of all the people in the region, Palestine has become an unhappy symbol of deceit and violence perpetrated in the name of nationalism and Allah, and in its present mode carries no blessings for the Arabs themselves or for humanity as a whole.
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