I think it's important to squash any myths out there, so...
One of the biggest myths related to the Arab-Israeli Conflict is that Israel and the whole of Mandatory Palestine before it; "was stolen from the Arabs as a result of imperialist machinations and settled by alien Jews."
The FACT is that until the defeat of the Ottoman Turkish Empire during World War I, there was no geopolitical entity called Palestine, no Arab nation lived on this land and no national claim was ever made to the territory by any group other than the Jews. Palestine, which was named so by the Roman Emperor Hadrian in an attempt to wipe out any Jewish connection, was simply a general name used for the area for historical purposes.
1867 - Mark Twain, when visitng Palestine wrote:
"... [a] desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but
is given wholly over to weeds - a silent mournful
expanse....A desolation is here that not even
imagination can grace with the pomp of life and
action...We never saw a human being on the whole
route....There was hardly a tree or a schrub
anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast
firends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the
country." (The Innocents Abroad)
Between the expulsion of the Jews by Rome in 70 to 132 CE and the defeat of
the Ottoman Empire in 1918, Palestine was occupied by fourteen conquerors
over thirteen centuries. The following table shows the approximate historical
periods of the various rulers of Palestine:
1. Israel Rule (Biblical Period)
1350 BC to 586 BC
2. Babylonian Conquest
587 BC to 538 BC
3. Israel Autonomy
(under Persian and Greco-Assyrian suzerainty)
538 BC to 168 BC
4. Revolt of the Maccabeans
168 BC to 143 BC
5. Rule of the Hasmoneans and their successors
143 BC to 70 AD
6. Jewish Autonomy
(under Roman and Byzantine suzerainty)
70 AD to 637 AD
7. Rule of Arab Caliphates
637 AD to 661 AD
661 AD to 750 AD
750 AD to 870 AD
969 AD to 1071 AD
8. Seljukes Rule
1072 AD to 1096 AD
1099 AD to 1175 AD
1175 AD to 1291 AD
10 . Mamelukes Rule
1291 AD to 1516 AD
11. Ottomans (Turks)
1516 AD to 1918 AD
12. British Mandate
1918 AD to 1948 AD
Thus, during the whole period of recorded history Palestine was never rules by the Arabs
of Palestine. The rule of the Arab Caliphates, which was a foreign Muslim rule, extended
for a period of 432 years - Jewish rule extended over a period of some 2000 years.
The inhabitants of the region consisted of their conquering soldiers and their slaves and only during
the Muslim conquest of the area were these diverse ethnic inhabitants compelled to accept Islam
and the Arab tongue or be put to the sword. The Jews in fact are the sole survivors of the ancient
inhabitants of Palestine who have maintained an uninterrupted link with the land since the dawn of
ARABS RECOGNIZE JEWISH SOVEREIGNTY
This fact was recognized in 1919 at the Allied Peace Conference in Paris to which
representatives of the Middle East Arab and Jewish Peoples were invited. At this conference,
Feisal, son of King Hussein, who headed the Arab delegation, agreed that Palestine should be
earmarked as the specific area in which Jewish sovereignty was to mature.
He announced acceptance of the Balfour Declaration of Nov. 2, 197 and concluded an agreement
with the World Zionist Organization, confirming that "all measures shall be adopted as will
afford the fullest guarantee of carrying into effect the British Government's Balfour
Declaration." These sentiments were expressed by Emir Feisal in a letter to prof. Felix
Frankfurter, Justice of the United States Supreme Court;
"Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted by the
Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference and we regard them as modest and
proper. We will do our best, insofar as we are concerned, to help them through, we
will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home." (March 3, 1919)
This letter followed the agreement signed on January 3, 1919, by Emir Feisal and Dr. Weizman.
Its first article stated:
"The Arab States and Palestine in all their relations and undertakings shall be
controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding, and to this end Arab and
Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in the respective
JEWISH AREAS REDUCED
Two promises were indeed made by Britain - one to the Arab peoples and the other to the Jews -
but completely reconcilable ones.
The interesting historical fact is that between World War I and the United Nations partition of
Palestine in 1947, British promises to the Arabs were over-fulfilled while their promises to the
Jews were constantly violated and whittled down. Far from being the victim of imperialism, the
Arab were handsomely rewarded by it when their sovereign states were established from above
by the carving up of the former Turkish Empire. This took place without the direct involvement of
the Arab peoples in the form of national movements as had been the case for example in Europe
in the end of the 19th century.
The development of the part of historic Palestine allocated by the major Powers for Jewish
sovereignty took a different course. The area originally designated and agreed to by Hussein and
Feisal, was first reduced by four-fifths, on which the British established the Emirate of Transjordan
(now Jordan). It was then reduced further by United Nations partition plan that designated a
substantial portion of this remaining fifth of Palestine as an independent Palestinian Arab state.
Thus in 1948, the State of Israel which came into being consisted of less than 8,000 square miles.
Against this, five Arab States - SYRIA, LEBANON, SAUDI ARABIA, JORDAN and IRAQ
covered an area of 1,200,00 square miles.
It was on the remaining one-fifth that the British Mandate of Palestine was established, and Britain
was charged by the League of Nations with the task of fostering the development of the Jewish
national home through unrestricted Jewish immigration and land settlement. It should be pointed
out here that at that time over 70% of the country was Crown lands transferred from the outgoing
Ottoman Empire to the incoming British Mandatory Authority. the remaining 30% of land were
largely swamp and barren hillside: It was in these areas that Jewish settlement began through land
purchase of absentee Arab landowners. nowhere did the Jews seek to displace any indigenous
The distribution of land in 1949 in the part of Palestine now Israel, between Arabs and Jews was
8.6 % of the land was owned by Jews.
3.3% of the land was owned by Israeli Arabs.
16.5 % of the land was owned by Arabs who fled.
70% of the land was the property of the British Mandatory Government now the property
of the State of Israel
Under the Mandate, of the Jewish population continued to grow but while their immigration was
progressively restricted, that of Arabs from the surrounding countries (Syria and Jordan) was
completely free. As a result, attracted by the Jewish development of the country, the Arab
population increased rapidly and had attained majority by 1947.
PALESTINE ARABS NEVER A NATION
Palestine Arab nationalism to whatever degree it is a conscious ideal today, is a product of recent
political currents. Until the 1920's no such national community had even existed in Palestine. This
is why both the Balfour Declaration and the League of Nations Mandate charged the Jews of the
National home with guaranteeing the civil and religious rights of other inhabitants. No mention was
made of other national rights of the other inhabitants. No mention was made of other national
rights as it recognized that the only national claim to the area was that made by the Jews. But the
fiction of Palestine Arab nationality is still being exploited. If the Palestinians were in fact a
separate nationality, then their anger over the past 40 years would have been directed as much
against Jordan and Egypt as against Israel, for it was the invading armies of these countries which
captured in the 1948 war a substantial portion of the territory under the United Nations partition
plan to the Palestine Arabs. This included the West Bank, which was occupied by the Jordanian
Army and added to their Kingdom, and the Gaza Strip, which was seized by the Egyptians.
The one people that have in fact maintained its historic and religious connection with the area
called Palestina, over a period of 2,000 years, is the Jews. Their right to the land is not only based on history and sentiment but is claimed by the physical process of the work invested in
transforming it into an area capable of supporting life. it is the fruits of this work that motivate
mythological Arab claims to the Land of Israel.