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Facts and Logic About
the Middle East
P.O. Box 590359
San Francisco, CA 94159
December 7, 2004
Friend of FLAME:
Daily we hear assertions that Israel is occupying Palestinian land.
Even the New York Times reports without comment or clarification
that Israeli troops ventured into the Palestinian territories
or that Arab militants are upset because Israel is building settlements
on Palestinian land. This is, of course, propaganda of the first
order, since there is no such thing as Palestinian land, and
to use that phrase is to promote a blatantly political anti-Israel
agenda. Yet like so many lies, the myth of Palestinian territory
seems to gather adherents and the patina of respectability the more
it is repeated. The excellent article below, by Lawrence Auster, lays
bare the historical facts of the matter: Israel has never taken land
from the Palestinians, and the Palestinians have no legal claim to Judea
and Samaria (the West Bank) or Gaza. (That's not to say that the Palestinians
shouldn't have land or even a state, but only that such land or state
must be the product of negotiations with Israel and not a foregone conclusion
before such negotiations begin and certainly not a justification for
terrorism.) We urge you, whenever you see unquestioning reports of Palestinian
land, to write your editor with clarification. This article will
supply you with all the facts you need.
||FLAME has recently published an excellent article on the absurd and scary notion, being dusted off again in the wake of Yasser Arafat's death, of a "single-state solution" a united Jewish-Islamic state in the land that is now Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. While the idea seems ludicrous on its face, it is being advocated vociferously on the Op-Ed pages of many American media. For clarification on this dangerous proposal, please go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/ad_88.html.|
By Lawrence Auster,
August 30, 2004
There is a myth hanging over all discussion of the Palestinian problem:
the myth that this land was "Arab" land taken from its native
inhabitants by invading Jews. Whatever may be the correct solution to
the problems of the Middle East, let's get a few things straight:
- As a strictly legal matter, the Jews didn't take Palestine from
the Arabs; they took it from the British, who exercised sovereign authority
in Palestine under a League of Nations mandate for thirty years prior
to Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. And the British don't
want it back.
- If you consider the British illegitimate usurpers, fine. In that
case, this territory is not Arab land but Turkish land, a province of
the Ottoman Empire for hundreds of years until the British wrested it
from them during the Great War in 1917. And the Turks don't want it
- If you look back earlier in history than the Ottoman Turks, who
took over Palestine over in 1517, you find it under the sovereignty
of the yet another empire not indigenous to Palestine: the Mamluks,
who were Turkish and Circassian slave-soldiers headquartered in Egypt.
And the Mamluks don't even exist any more, so they can't want it back.
So, going back 800 years, there's no particularly clear chain of title
that makes Israel's title to the land inferior to that of any of the
previous owners. Who were, continuing backward:
- The Mamluks, already mentioned, who in 1250 took Palestine over
- The Ayyubi dynasty, the descendants of Saladin, the Kurdish Muslim
leader who in 1187 took Jerusalem and most of Palestine from:
- The European Christian Crusaders, who in 1099 conquered Palestine
- The Seljuk Turks, who ruled Palestine in the name of:
- The Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad, which in 750 took over the
sovereignty of the entire Near East from:
- The Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus, which in 661 inherited control
of the Islamic lands from:
- The Arabs of Arabia, who in the first flush of Islamic expansion
conquered Palestine in 638 from:
- The Byzantines, who (nice peopleperhaps it should go to
them?) didn't conquer the Levant, but, upon the division of the Roman
Empire in 395, inherited Palestine from:
- The Romans, who in 63 B.C. took it over from:
- The last Jewish kingdom, which during the Maccabean rebellion
from 168 to 140 B.C. won control of the land from:
- The Hellenistic Greeks, who under Alexander the Great in 333
B.C. conquered the Near East from:
- The Persian empire, which under Cyrus the Great in 639 B.C. freed
Jerusalem and Judah from:
- The Babylonian empire, which under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.
took Jerusalem and Judah from:
- The Jews, meaning the people of the Kingdom of Judah, who, in
their earlier incarnation as the Israelites, seized the land in the
12th and 13th centuries B.C. from:
- The Canaanites, who had inhabited the land for thousands of years
before they were dispossessed by the Israelites.
As the foregoing suggests, any Arab claim to sovereignty based on inherited
historical control will not stand up. Arabs are not native to Palestine,
but are native to Arabia, which is called Arab-ia for the breathtakingly
simple reason that it is the historic home of the Arabs. The territories
comprising all other "Arab" states outside the Arabian peninsulaincluding
Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, as well as
the entity now formally under the Palestinian Authoritywere originally
non-Arab nations that were conquered by the Muslim Arabs when they
spread out from the Arabian peninsula in the first great wave of jihad
in the 7th century, defeating, mass-murdering, enslaving, dispossessing,
converting, or reducing to the lowly status of dhimmitude millions
of Christians and Jews and destroying their ancient and flourishing civilizations.
Prior to being Christian, of course, these lands had even more ancient
histories. Pharaonic Egypt, for example, was not an Arab country through
its 3,000 year history. The recent assertion by the Palestinian Arabs
that they are descended from the ancient Canaanites whom the ancient Hebrews
displaced is absurd
in light of the archeological evidence.
There is no record of the Canaanites surviving their destruction
in ancient times. History records literally hundreds of ancient
peoples that no longer exist. The Arab claim to be descended from Canaanites
is an invention that came after the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation
Organization, the same crew who today deny that there was ever a Jewish
temple in Jerusalem. Prior to 1964 there was no "Palestinian"
people and no "Palestinian" claim to Palestine; the Arab nations
who sought to overrun and destroy Israel in 1948 planned to divide up
the territory amongst themselves. Let us also remember that prior to
the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, the name "Palestinian"
referred to the Jews of Palestine.
In any case, today's "Palestine," meaning the West Bank and
Gaza, is, like most of the world, inhabited by people who are not descendants
of the first human society to inhabit that territory. This is true not
only of recently settled countries like the United States and Argentina,
where European settlers took the land from the indigenous inhabitants
several hundred years ago, but also of ancient nations like Japan, whose
current Mongoloid inhabitants displaced a primitive people, the Ainu,
aeons ago. Major "native" tribes of South Africa, like the
Zulu, are actually invaders from the north who arrived in the 17th century.
India's caste system reflects waves of fair-skinned Aryan invaders who
arrived in that country in the second millennium B.C. One could go on
The only nations that have perfect continuity between their earliest
known human inhabitants and their populations of the present day are
Iceland, parts of China, and a few Pacific islands. The Chinese case
is complicated by the fact that the great antiquity of Chinese civilization
has largely erased the traces of whatever societies preceded it, making
it difficult to reconstruct to what extent the expanding proto-Chinese
displaced (or absorbed) the prehistoric peoples of that region. History
is very sketchy in regard to the genealogies of ancient peoples. The
upshot is that "aboriginalism"the proposition that the
closest descendants of the original inhabitants of a territory are the
rightful ownersis not tenable in the real world. It is not clear
that it would be a desirable idea even if it were tenable. Would human
civilization really be better off if there had been no China, no Japan,
no Greece, no Rome, no France, no England, no Ireland, no United States?
Back to the Arabs: I have no problem recognizing the legitimacy
of the Arabs' tenure in Palestine when they had it, from 638 to 1099,
a period of 461 years out of a history lasting 5,000 years. They took
Palestine by military conquest, and they lost it by conquest, to the Christian
Crusaders in 1099. Of course, military occupation by itself does not determine
which party rightly has sovereignty in a given territory. Can it
not be said that the Arabs have sovereign rights, if not to all of Israel,
then at least to the West Bank, by virtue of their majority residency
in that region from the early Middle Ages to the present?
To answer that question, let's look again at the historical record.
Prior to 1947, as we've discussed, Palestine was administered by the
British under the Palestine Mandate, the ultimate purpose of which,
according to the Balfour Declaration, was the establishment of a Jewish
national home in Palestine. In 1924 the British divided the Palestine
Mandate into an Arabs-only territory east of the Jordan, which became
the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, and a greatly reduced Palestine Mandate
territory west of the Jordan, which was inhabited by both Arabs and
Given the fact that the Jews and Arabs were unable to coexist in one
state, there had to be two states. At the same time, there were no natural
borders separating the two peoples, in the way that, for example, the
Brenner Pass has historically marked the division between Latin and
Germanic Europe. Since the Jewish population was concentrated near the
coast, the Jewish state had to start at the coast and go some distance
inland. Exactly where it should have stopped, and where the Arab state
should have begun, was a practical question that could have been settled
in any number of peaceful ways, almost all of which the Jews would have
The Jews' willingness to compromise on territory was demonstrated
not only by their acquiescence in the UN's 1947 partition plan, which
gave them a state with squiggly, indefensible borders, but even by their
earlier acceptance of the 1937 Peel Commission partition plan, which
gave them nothing more than a part of the Galilee and a tiny strip along
the coast. Yet the Arab nations, refusing to accept any Jewish sovereignty
in Palestine even if it was the size of a postage stamp, unanimously
rejected the 1937 Peel plan, and nine years later they violently rejected
the UN's partition plan as well. When the Arabs resorted to arms in
order to wipe out the Jews and destroy the Jewish state, they accepted
the verdict of arms. They lost that verdict in 1948, and they lost it
again in 1967, when Jordan, which had annexed the West Bank in 1948
(without any objections from Palestinian Arabs that their sovereign
nationhood was being violated), attacked Israel from the West Bank during
the Six Day War despite Israel's urgent pleas that it stay out of the
conflict. Israel in self-defense then captured the West Bank. The Arabs
thus have no grounds to complain either about Israel's existence (achieved
in '48) or about its expanded sovereignty from the river to the sea
(achieved in '67).
The Arabs have roiled the world for decades with their furious protest
that their land has been "stolen" from them. One might take
seriously such a statement if it came from a pacifist people such as the
Tibetans, who had quietly inhabited their land for ages before it was
seized by the Communist Chinese in 1950. The claim is laughable coming
from the Arabs, who in the early Middle Ages conquered and reduced to
slavery and penury ancient peoples and civilizations stretching from the
borders of Persia to the Atlantic; who in 1947 rejected an Arab state
in Palestine alongside a Jewish state and sought to obliterate the nascent
Jewish state; who never called for a distinct Palestinian Arab state until
the creation of the terrorist PLO in 1964sixteen years after the
founding of the state of Israel; and who to this moment continue to seek
Israel's destruction, an object that would be enormously advanced by the
creation of the Arab state they demand. The Arab claim to sovereign rights
west of the Jordan is only humored today because of a fatal combination
of world need for Arab oil, leftist Political Correctness that has cast
the Israelis as "oppressors," and, of course, good old Jew-hatred.
Lawrence Auster is the
author of Erasing
America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation. He offers his traditionalist
conservative perspective at View
from the Right.
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