Jewish ties

September 14th, 2008

It is a common misconception that in 1948 the Jews suddenly returned to Palestine demanding their country back after having been forced into the Diaspora 1,800 years earlier by the Romans following the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.  In reality, Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3,700 years, including a national language and a distinct civilization. Even after the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the exile, Jewish life in Palestine continued and often flourished. As many historical sources, including Crusader records made contemporaneously with their military conquest of the Holy Land attest, Jewish life in the Land continued  and despite all, even often flourished.  (See Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s land (See Joseph Farah “The Jews took no one’s landwww.WorldNetDaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=27338 )


Without delving deeply into the history of the Byzantines, Mameluks, Mongol Hordes, and other temporary occupiers of the territory lying between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, it is worth while drawing the reader’s attention to some illustrations of the Jewish presence in this territory drawn from what might best be described as ‘Some Sound-Bites of History’ (Rona Hart, (ed) in preparation; see also Eliyahu Tal, Whose Jerusalem? International Forum for a United Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 1994 (hereinafter “Tal”) ; Dan Bahat (ed), 20 Centuries of Jewish Life in the Holy Land, The Forgotten Generations, The Israel Economist, 1976 (hereinafter “Bahat”)

3. Pre 1967 Palestinian-Arab Cultural and Political Identity

September 13th, 2008

Palestine has never been an exclusively Arab country. Although Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century, no independent Arab or Palestinian state has ever existed in the territory called Palestine.

When the Jews began to immigrate to Palestine in large numbers in 1882, fewer than 250,000 Arabs lived there. “The great majority of the Arab population in recent decades were comparative newcomers – either late immigrants or descendants of persons who had immigrated into Palestine in the previous 70 years.” (Carl Voss,The Palestine Problem Today, Israel and its Neighbours” Beacon Press 1953 cited in Bard)

Prior to partition in 1948, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted:

    We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic and geographical bonds (Yehoshua Porat, Palestinian Arab National Movement 1918-1929, London Frank Cass 1977 pp.81-82 cited in Bard)

This perception of Palestine persisted even after World War I, when in 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, stated in evidence before the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine:

“There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries, part of Syria. (Jerusalem Post, November 2, 1991)

As late as 1947 the political perspective of the Arabs in Palestine had not changed. The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 stating: “Palestine was part of the Province of Syria” and that “politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.” A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”

Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post-World War I creation but it did not become as a significant political movement until after the 1967 Six-Day War when Palestinian-Arab terrorist organisations emerged as the embodiment of  their vision for self-determination to be realised by violent struggle. The adoption of a distinctive Palestinian identity was forged initially during the first Intifada, (1987–1993) while the resort to violence in the attainment of self determination still remains still remains a potent element as ever in Arab culture and Palestinian segmentary society.  This topic will be examined in depth in a later Chapter (see Tal Beker, Self-Determination in Perspective: Palestinian Claims to Statehood and the Relativity of the Right of Self-Determination, (1998) 32 Israel L. rev. 301)

1. Jewish Population in Palestine from Roman Conquest

September 13th, 2008

After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE and the removal by the Romans to Rome of many Jews as slaves, there was still a Jewish population in the land significant in number to establish a Jewish army. Led by Bar-Kochba, the Jews revolted against Roman domination in the 130′s CE. Although they were ultimately defeated, contemporary Roman reports noted that Julius Severus was deterred from engaging Bar-Kochba’s forces in face-to-face combat, as their numbers were so large.  (Dio Cassius, Dio’s Roman History)

  • Between 132-135 Hadrian crushed Bar Kokhba’s revolt, re-established Jerusalem as the Roman pagan polis Aelia Capitolina, and forbade a Jewish presence in the city.
  • While Jerusalem may have been without Jews for a time, many other urban areas maintained a strong Jewish population. Thus in 260-339 CE, Eusebius reported:

in the Holy Land there is a large town with a considerable population consisting only of Jews, called in Aramaic, Lod, and in Greek, Diocaesarea (History of the Martyrs of Palestine, London  1861);

  • Although in 324 Jerusalem became part of the Byzantine Empire, and notwithstanding Bar Kochba’s defeat, the Jews in the Holy Land continued to resist the Roman occupation.  In the year 351, a Jewish military night-attack totally destroyed a Roman garrison. In response, Gallus retaliated by slaughtering thousands of people including infants, and destroyed the towns of Caesarea, Tiberas and Lydda and setting fire to many others.  (St Jerome Hieronymus)
  • Tolerant of other faiths, pagan Emperor Julian the Apostate announced between 361-363 that the Jews be permitted to return to “holy Jerusalem which you have for many years longed to see rebuilt”.
  • Such toleration of Jews in the Holy Land did not continue for long. From the reign of Theodosius II (408-450) Jews were deprived of their relative autonomy and of their right to hold public positions. They were also forbidden to enter Jerusalem except on one day a year to mourn the Destruction of the Temple.
  • Even though Jewish political independence was lost, its literary and religious activity continued in the Holy Land as evidenced by the compilation in the 6th century of the Midrash Rabbah “Great Midrash”. This is an encyclopaedial body of biblical interpretations and commentary which is still used today as a reference in Judaic Studies.
    Considerable anecdotal evidence attesting to the continued Jewish presence in the Holy Land in the 6th century can be derived from the reports of Christian pilgrims such as Antoninus the Martyr, who during his visit to Palestine at the end of the century, declared:

“Nazareth! So great is the beauty of the Jewish women in the town that you will not find more beautiful women amongst the Jews in the length and breadth of this Land.”

  • In 614 CE, led by General Shahrbaraz, the Persians conquered the territory west of the Jordan and with it Jerusalem was subjected to foreign rule. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was burned and the True Cross was captured. Hoping for freedom of worship, the Jews gave the invaders their support, only to be disappointed by the Persian response. However Karen Armstrong, an authoritative British historian on comparative religion notes that  “ever since the Persian occupation, … the Jews had resumed worship on the (Temple Mount) platform …” (Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, Ballantine Books: New York, p. 229)
  • In any case, Persian rule was short lived, ending in March 629, when Heraclius, the Byzantine Emperor, gained control of Jerusalem. Again Jews made pleas for religious tolerance and some degree of political independence. Visiting Tiberias in 629, the Emperor was welcomed by all the Jews dwelling in the Galilee hills and  Nazareth. All the small Galilean villages showered him with gifts and blessings and begged his protection.  Heraclius responded favourably and signed a treaty with the Jews, guaranteeing to protect them… but under pressure from Christian priests in Jerusalem reneged on his agreement. (Euthychius, Patriarch of Alexandria, 939)

The Muslim historian Baladhuri (d. 892 C.E.) maintained that just prior to the Arab Muslim conquest (638 C.E), some 30,000 Samaritans and 20,000 Jews lived in Caesarea alone.  Archaeological data confirms the lasting devastation wrought by these initial jihad conquests, particularly the widespread destruction of synagogues and churches.

Jewish industrial and agricultural undertakings also suffered from the jihad; Jews involved in the traditional occupations of glass-making and producing wicks for oil lamps were disrupted in their work and the agricultural uprooting during this period caused massive soil erosion to the western slopes of the Judaean mountains.The papyri of Nessana were completely discontinued after the year 700, reflecting the destruction the Jewish agricultural life of the Negev and the desertion of its villages.

1. Introduction

September 12th, 2008

For over 60 years since its establishment in 1948, Israel has been constantly under both military and political attack by Arab nations as being a usurper of Palestinian land and a foreign intruder into dar Islam- the domain of Islam – (a more geographical and physical term than “the world of Islam” which is conceptual.) From a secular and political perspective, even as early as the1920’s, the Arabs developed an expressed opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine, particularly where such settlement might have brought about a Jewish majority and political ascendancy over the indigenous Arab population. Perhaps the best expression of this opposition was given in the 1947 Anglo-American Committee’s Report, summarised below, commissioned by the British and American governments following the conclusion of World War II when the full extent of the Holocaust was beginning to be realised.

4. Emerging Issues flowing from Arab Cultural Characteristics

September 12th, 2008

The above brief introductory discussion on Arab cultural characteristics, tribal spirit and loyalties, the unifying force of Islam and that of Palestinian identity raises a number of important issues which will emerge with greater prominence as the historical, political and legal aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict develop.

  • Palestinian Identity and Interest Differentiated from other Arabs
    Under Ottoman, British and Jordanian rule, the Palestinians had not displayed any characteristics significantly different from those of the Arab population in Jordan and Syria. It was only after the Six Days War that a significant Arab population came under Jewish-Israeli control and Arabs living in Judea and Samaria directly confronted the “other”- the Jews. The issue is whether without destroying the territorial integrity of the State of Israel, the Palestinians are a sufficiently differentiated people not only from the Israelis but also from the populations of the other neighbouring Arab states to justify and sustain a claim in international law for self determination as an independent viable state politically and economically.
  • Concentration of Power
    As been shown above, in Arab society honour and power are intertwined and the exercise of power is decentralised. In the West, by way of contrast, the exercise of power is not only the exclusive preserve of state governments but in international conflicts, there are political moves towards extending the centralisation of the exercise of power in the hands of the United Nations or under the auspices. Such tendency appears to be at odds with Arab–Islamic values as seen recently in Afghanistan, Chechnia and Iraq.
  • Arab Customs in the Initiation and Conduct of War Diverge from those Pertaining in the West
    Even if the resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is unattainable by negotiation, and the parties continue to resort to violence, given their cultural and religious differences, it is necessary to review afresh whether contemporary rules and customs of international law in relation to war and the pacific settlement of international disputes can be truly applied to a clash between Islam and the West.
    As will be shown in Chapter VI and subsequent Chapters, the movement to establish the League of Nations and its successor, the United Nations, as new international institutions dedicated to pacific resolution of international disputes were led by Western statesmen. Although the customs and norms in relation to the initiation and conduct of war may now be seen as secular they nonetheless developed out of Christian western values, namely,
    • maintaining a distinction between combatants and non-involved ‘civilians’
    • military necessity, and
    • proportionality.

These values form the bedrock of western military culture but they have no express parallel in Arab tribal ‘military’ culture and tradition. There, the bearing of arms is considered a sign of masculinity in the protection of personal, family and tribal honour, as are their women and children.

However, in confronting a non-Muslim enemy, war -  Jihad – expresses a religious rather than a nationalist objective. Persons who do not submit to the dominance of Islam may become legitimate targets: combatants do not appear to be differentiated from non-combatants; males are slain while females are taken into captivity for purposes of reproduction to maintain the strength of the tribe or clan.

A recent Arab declaration on the subject of Jihad declares

“the sanctity of the blood of women, young children, and elderly infidels is not absolute. There are cases under which it is permitted to kill them, if they are part of a nation of war….[I]f only one of these circumstances holds true, then he must permit the operations because the circumstances are not conditional upon fulfilling all of them, but only one will suffice. …
Muslims are permitted to kill infidel innocents reciprocally; if the infidels are targeting the women, the young children and the elderly Muslims, then it is permissible for the Muslims to act reciprocally, and kill just as they were killed. in Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, and other places”
(
Communique from Qu’idat al- Jihad Concerning the Testaments of the Heroes and the Legality of the Washington and New York Operations, April 24, 2002, in David Cook, Understanding Jihad, U of California Press, 2004, pp 175 et seq.)

  • The objectives of fundamentalist Islam are in conflict with the Western notion of the illegality of resorting to war except in self defence or in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. For Islam, a higher value is the submission of all peoples to the will of Allah which is to be achieved by jihad if necessary.
    (
    Muhammad And The Treaty Of Hudaybiyya, http://www.answering-islam.org/Silas/hudaybiyya.htm; Holy Prophet’s Life, Joint Conspiracy of Qoraish and Jews and Ghazwah Ahzab http://www.anwary-islam.com/prophet-life/holly-p-13.htm ;see also http://www.historyofjihad.com/ )
    See particularly David Cook, Understanding Jihad, University of California Press, Berkley
  • Even the accepted Western principle that agreements and international pacts are to be observed by all parties is in conflict with Islamic tradition and values. Islamists who, for the time being, may be unable to overcome stronger infidel opponents and decide therefore, for strategic reasons, to enter into a truce or even a peace agreement with such opponents, are permitted by Arab cultural and religious tenets to breach that agreement if at some later date the earlier Islamists’ position of weakness is reversed to one of superiority. See Treaty of Hudabeya http://www.witnesspioneer.org/vil/Articles/companion/19_ali_bin_talib.htm;
    Denis MacEoin, Tatical Hudna and Islamic Intolerance, Middle East Quarterly, Summer pp.39-84 http://www.meforum.org/article/1925 )

Thus, to what extent should Israel rely on Arab promises and solemn undertakings?

Assuming that the European and Western powers see themselves as possessing a unified western-orientated cultural system and identity and wish to differentiate themselves from other peoples in the Middle and Far East – a questionable assumption today – they view Israel as a Western oriented nation and expect her act as such. In so doing she in direct confrontation with the cultural norms of the Arab peoples and is the European vanguard against Islamic expansion. In a regional and local military confrontation with Arab states and with the Palestinian population in the Territories, she is expected to abide by Western international customary and conventional laws of war even if her enemies do not.

Given the above factors it is difficult to fathom why Israel encounters so much opposition from a number of Western states. It may be due to an unfounded naïve belief and myth that all the conflict between the West and the Arabs is due Israel’s illegitimate birth and her continued existence. Perhaps most of the answer can be found in the West’s voracious need for Arab controlled oil the necessity for securing untrammelled access to its sources.

Israel, as a small and western-oriented Jewish state lying within dar Islam but dependant to a large extent for her continued security on the support of the United States, seems to constitute an impediment to the realisation of Western interests and can therefore be sacrificed in the arena of public opinion

In contrast to Arab society, public opinion in Western democratic societies exercises a powerful influence in governmental and non-government organisational decision-making. Public opinion is moulded by public relations, information and propaganda campaigns operating overtly and covertly in Western civil society. “Acting contrary to international law” has become a mantra in media communications employed by one antagonist to advance its political platform or objectives and to malign or destroy those of its opponents. Initially dominated by the ‘fourth estate’ comprising newspapers, radio and television, this arena is slowly being eclipsed by emergent interactive internet websites and linkages. They have the potential to exert a major influence on national decision-making not only in western democratic states but have even more potential in promoting the free flow of information in non-democratic states.  On the other hand both news media and cyberspace activists are not accountable to any institution or constituency for the veracity of their communications.

In evaluating an assertion that a State, such as Israel, is “acting contrary to international law,” the addressee must be in a position to know not only the factual background on which the accusations are based but also what provisions of international law are allegedly being violated. It is often the case that the specific international legal proposition in question is inapplicable in the territory where an apparent violation has occurred or that the State alleged to be in violation has not acceded to the treaty or Convention in which the norm or principle was formulated; thus opening the way for uninformed and unjustified condemnation.

With the foregoing considerations in mind, Chapter VI is designed to assist and hopefully enable the reader to assess the validity of what is alleged to be in accordance with or contrary to international law or, if this is impossible, it is hoped that the material presented may place the reader at least in a better position to question the assertion being advanced.

However in order to assess the legality of subsequent Israeli actions, it is still necessary to examine in a little more detail the political, demographic and economic conditions which prevailed in Palestine prior to the end World War I and to assess their effect upon Palestinian Arab claims of the being dispossessed of their land by early Jewish land acquisition and immigration. These claims are examined in the Chapter IV following next.

2. Jewish Population of the Holy Land Under Early Islamic Conquest and Occupation

September 12th, 2008

Muslim rule over the Holy Land, began just four years after the death of the Prophet. Caliphs ruled first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and Egypt.

The Muslim conquest of the Holy Land in 638 CE was initially favourable to the Jews. They resumed settlement in Jerusalem and were appointed guardians of the Temple Mount in return for their aid to the conquering Arab army. In Hebron Jews and Muslims appeared to cooperate in the protection and development of the Holy Sites there.

    • “But when the Arabs who came to Hebron marvelled at the strength and beauty of the wall [that surrounded the Cave of Machpelah, [burial place of the Patriarchs] and at the fact there was no opening through which it was possible to enter, some Jews who had remained under the Greek rule approached them, saying, “Protect us so that we may live under like conditions amongst you and permit us to build a synagogue in front of the entrance to the cave, and we will then show you at what place you should install the gate and so it was done.”
    • (Canonici Hebronensis Tractatus de Inventione Sanctorum Partriacharum Abraham, Ysaac et Jacob.)
    Ummayads
    The rule of the Ummayads (661-750 C.E) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umayyad) was a peaceful time for the Jews in Palestine. Indeed the Holy Land became a place of Jewish inward migration. Jews who were expelled from various other Arab areas, journeyed across what is now Jordan and settled in Jericho.

    Abbasids
    The mid 8th century saw the Ummayads supplanted by the Abbasid Caliphite

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbasid) who founded Baghdad, making it their capital.
    It was only during this period that Jerusalem started to became an important centre for Islam

  • Between 687-691, Caliph Abd al-Malik built the Dome of the Rock mosque to compete with the beautiful Christian churches (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abd_al-Malik#Art_and_Architecture) and to provide a centre of pilgrimage closer to Baghdad than Mecca, but subordinate to it. Shortly afterwards (715) yet a further Islamic shrine, Masjid al-Aqsa, was built on the site of the Temple Mount (Har Habyit in Jewish appellation)
  • During this period (8th and 9th centuries) various travellers and pilgrims make reference in their reports to a continuing Jewish presence in Palestine:

    • Michael the Syrian relates that 30 synagogues in Tiberias were destroyed in the earthquake of 748 CE. This event is verified by St Willibald, a pilgrim from Britain who visited all of the holy places, an account of which was written by his relative, a nun of Heidenheim.
    • During the 8th century Jews were among those who guarded the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount, in return for which they were absolved from paying the poll tax imposed on all non-Muslims.
  • However with the rise of the Abbasids, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (both Jews and Christians) deteriorated.  Non-Muslims had to wear a special badge on their clothing.  Increasing discrimination – social and economic – against non-Muslims caused many Jews to move to Fustat, Egypt, to establish a new community there.
  • In 772 C.E., when Caliph al Mansur visited Jerusalem, he ordered a special mark should be stamped on the hands of the Christians and the Jews. Over-taxed and tortured by the tax collectors, the dhimmi villagers went into hiding or migrated into the towns. Many Christians fled to Byzantium in the face of the fiscal oppression which devastated both the Jewish and Christian peasantry.  Bat Ye’Or, quoting from a detailed chronicle completed in 774 by an eighth century monk, states:
    • The men scattered, they became wanderers everywhere; the fields were laid waste, the countryside pillaged; the people went from one land to another.
  • A mosaic synagogue floor from this period located in Sussiya, South Judea contains an inscription which attests to the continued Jewish presence in Palestine at this time. The inscription reads:
    • Should be remembered for good and blessing our Master, His Holiness, R(abbi) Issi the Cohen, the Respected, the son of Rabbi who has donated this mosaic and plastered and whitewashed its wall as he promised at the banquet of his son, R(abbi) Johanan the Cohen, the Scribe.  Peace be upon Israel.
  • During the 9th century a listing of Jewish communities shows over 40 towns and villages in Galilee and Golan, several in the Jordan valley, and a handful across the Jordan.  Other towns with Jewish communities  include Jerusalem, Jaffa, Kfar Kasem, Kfar Saba, Bnei Brak, Lod (Lydda), Emmaus, Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ein Gedi, Jericho, Shilo, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
    Fatimids
    The 10th Century brought further political upheaval in the Middle East. The Abbasids lost power to Fatimids (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatimid ) who founded a new capital for their empire at al-Q?hirat (Cairo) in 969. After conquering Egypt, they continued to conquer the surrounding areas and Egypt became the centre of an empire that included North Africa, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. While Egypt flourished under the Fatimids , they nevertheless persecuted and imposed heavy taxation on the Jews in Palestine compelling them to leave their rural communities and move to the towns.
  • Arab geographer, Al Muqaddasi, writing in 985 CE complains in his “Knowledge of Climes”, that in Jerusalem
    • “…Learned men are few and the Christians numerous, and the same are unmannerly in public places… Everywhere the Christians and the Jews have the upper hand, and the mosque is void of either congregation or assembly of learned men.”
    He also notes that the Jews were employed as official money-changers, dyers and tanners.  Those who lived near Lake Hula, in the north, wove mats and ropes.  In Tiberias, the Jews specialised in the traditional manner of reciting, cantillating and interpreting the Scriptures.
    These were not the only activities in that city. Al MuQadassi also reported the residents of the town “led a life of decadence — dancing, feasting, playing the flute, running around naked, and swatting flies.”
  • At this time there was a continuous flow to Jerusalem of Jews from various countries, seeking shelter. A letter sent at the end of the 10th century from the Karaite Sahal ben Mazzli’ah to the Egyptian Diaspora, states:
    • “And know that Jerusalem at this time is a sanctuary to all who seek shelter, and gives rest to all who mourn, and comforts all who are poor and in want, and all the servants of the Lord come into her from every family and from every city, and amongst them women weeping and wailing in the holy tongue and in the Persian tongue and in the tongue of Ishmael.  Men and women dressed in sack-cloth and ashes… and they go up to the Mount of Olives all who are heavy of heart and in pain.”
    Unfortunately, Jerusalem did not remain a haven for Jewish refugees for long. Fatimid ruler, Caliph Al-Hakim (996-1021) destroyed both synagogues and churches, banished Christian priests and emptied Jerusalem of Jews. Although he eventually rescinded some of these restrictions, nevertheless the Jewish academy of Jerusalem had to move to Ramla. However in 1033 earthquake in the region forced the Jews to abandon the town temporarily. They returned some later.

2. Arab-Palestinian Narrative

September 12th, 2008

The fundamental structural elements of the Arab perception of its case encompass the following assertions to which a brief response is given and expanded later:

  • “Palestine was and is a country which the Arabs have occupied for more than a thousand years, and any Jewish historical claims to the land are rejected.”
    • Response:
      • Jews, too, have maintained an unbroken contact with Palestine since their involuntary dispersion 2000 years ago by the Romans and have never severed their connection with it.
      • There is no justification for rejecting a historical claim if that claim has been maintained uninterruptedly since the dispersion.
  • “The British Government, in issuing the Balfour Declaration   (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/mideast/balfour.htm ) was disposing of something that did not belong to it.”
    • Response:
      • The text of the Balfour Declaration and its issuance received prior approval of the American and French governments
      • Contemporaneously with the issuance of the Declaration in 1918, Britain had conquered Palestine and in accordance with the laws of war pertaining at the time, she would have been entitled to protect her interests there. Were it not for American involvement, she would have utilised the territory for her own uses. In the absence of outside investment she would have been left in deficit to manage an under-populated territory incapable of being financially and economically independent – as Palestine was under Ottoman rule. In the circumstances and with the agreement of the Allied powers she legitimately promoted demographic and capital inflows while protecting the civil rights if the existing inhabitants.
  • “The Mandate was in conflict with the Covenant of the League of Nations from which it derived its authority.” (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/leagcov.htm).

    • Response:
      • Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant recognises that some territories were almost ready to stand alone, while others needed further “tutelage.”
      • Sub article 1 relates to those territories which are inhabited “by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world.” The Syrian and Iraqi (Mesopotamia) mandates fell under this head.
      • In contrast, subarticle 4 refers “certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized. The Palestine mandate
        falls under this provision.
  • “The part played by the British in freeing the Arabs from Turkish rule after World War I did not empower Great Britain, France or the other Allied Powers to dispose of “their” country.”
    • Response:
      • Rather than constituting a pre-existing aspiration, Arab independence was in fact a new vision following the Ottoman defeat – a by-product emerging from the deliberations and fiats of the victors. In the process of securing her interests Britain permitted and even encouraged Arab self-determination but only in those areas where British interests were not compromised
      • Britain’s intention in going to war with Germany and her ally Turkey did not specifically encompass freeing the Hashemites or any other Arab tribe from Ottoman rule.
      • In any case Britain did not agree to recognise Hashemite interests extending into Palestine and Hussein, Hussein, King of Hajaz at the time, deferred his claim to Palestine until the conclusion of WW I.
  • “Turkish rule was preferable to that of the British rule, if the latter involved their eventual subjection to the Jews.”
    • Response:
      • Arab preference for Islamic rule over that exercised by a dhimmi people (see later for extended discussion) presupposes that Islamic hegemony is justifiable.
      • Past experience has shown that Jewish and Christian inhabitants in Arab lands under Muslim rule have not been treated as equals in the exercise of their civil and religious rights and their holy places have been desecrated.
      • In contrast, the Jewish State of Israel permits freedom of worship and respects almost all sites claimed by Islam and other beliefs as Holy Places
  • “The Mandate was and is a violation of the Arab right of self-determination since it forced upon the Arab population within its own territory an immigrant non-Islamic and foreign people whom they did not desire and would not tolerate. In short they regarded the Mandate as a Jewish invasion of Palestine.”
    • Response:
      • The Arab position presuppose that no other peoples in the Middle East have a right of self-determination
      • Jews living in Arab lands also have an equal right of self-determination which the Arab majority in the Middle East unjustifiably refuses to recognise.
      • The Husseini Arab leadership’s hatred of Jews generally, and as foreign interlopers to Palestine particularly, is racially prejudicial and is unsupportable in international law.
  • Palestinians assert that the promises made to the Arabs by Great Britain in 1915 in the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, and the later assurances given to Arab leaders by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman concerning Palestine, had been understood as recognition of the principle that Palestinian Arabs should enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by the populations of the neighbouring Arab states. Thus the emergent opposition to the idea of a Jewish National Home predated the issue of the Mandate in 1922 and again before the 1942 Biltmore Program expressed its support for a Jewish State. (See Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, Chapter VI, paras. 2 and 3 http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/anglo/angch06.htm)
    • Response
      • Refutation of this argument is presented at length in Chapter II.
      • Suffice it to say here that the conclusions drawn from the Hussein-McMahon correspondence by the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular do not coincide with the evidence. (see Isaiah Friedman, Palestine: A Twice Promised Land The: British, The Arabs and Zionism 1915-1920, Transaction Publishers, Edison, NJ 08837,  2000)
  • Since by 1947 all the surrounding Arab States had been granted independence, Palestinian Arabs argue that they were just as advanced politically as were the citizens of the nearby States, and the suggestion that self-government should be withheld from Palestine until the Jews had acquired a majority was outrageous
    • Response:
      • Arab political advancement is inconsistent with the evidence on the ground:
      • Government is tribally autocratic not democratic (see later).
      • Self-government remains government by elites and is unaccountable to the general population.
      • Sexual equality remains undeveloped and the exercise of other internationally acknowledged human rights is suppressed.
      • The Jewish majority in the State of Israel recognises, as a matter of principle, the equality of the Arab population. That it is not always implemented in practise, is to be regretted.
      • Immediately following Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948 five Arab armies invaded the territory lying to west of the Jordan River. Israel, acting in self defence, succeeded in retaining the area designating by the United Nations as the territory of the Jewish State, but also encroached on some of the territory designated for the Palestinian Arab state. The balance became occupied mainly by Jordan, and small areas by Egypt and Syria.
  • After 1948, but before 1967, the Palestinians added one further claim in addition to those mentioned above. Those Palestinians who had fled, been driven out, or otherwise dispossessed of their lands located in what subsequently became the State of Israel as a result of the War of Independence (Israeli nomenclature) or “al-Nakba“, the “catastrophe” (Palestinian Arab nomenclature) have the “right of return” to their original homes.
    • Response:
      • The United Nations Security Council Resolution 194 does not support a right of return as the exclusive remedy available to Palestinian refugees. Compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement are alternative possibilities
      • The Resolution refers to refugees who wish live at peace with their neighbours. The desire for peaceful co-existence has not been manifested in practice by the refugees or their leadership.
  • Following the Six Day War in 1967, the Palestinians assert further that the following Israeli acts are illegal and contrary to international law:
  • the military occupation by the Israel Defence Forces of  the previously held Palestinian – Jordanian land;
  • the taking of that land by Jewish settlers; and
  • the annexation of East Jerusalem (and the Golan Heights) by the State of Israel.

Israel rejects the assertion of illegality in her above actions and the detailed response to these claims forms the major part of this book

3. Jewish-Israeli Narrative

September 12th, 2008

Israel’s frame of reference and perception of the conflict is different from that presented by the Palestinians. She claims that the Jewish people, whom she represents in part, has had an unbroken connection with ‘Eretz Yisrael’ – the Land of Israel from before the rise of Christianity and Islam, notwithstanding their exile by the Romans in the first century.

“Judea capta est,”  inscribed on the arch of Titus (“Judea has been captured”)  memorialises the Roman victory over the Jews, their majority forced into exile, taken into slavery and later dispersed throughout the Roman Empire for over two millennia. Throughout this period, they were denied both freedom of national self-expression and the claim of their “right of return” to re-establish a patrimonial sovereignty in their homeland.  For the remnant in Palestine, there followed subjugation and suffering under the oppressive yoke of successive conquerors: Byzantine, Arab, Crusader, Mameluke and Ottoman. The Jewish remnant was a spent force, militarily and politically, but it nevertheless maintained a physical and spiritual continuity in and with the Land.  Acting as caretakers, Jews maintained a vigorous religious presence, mainly in urban centres throughout the country (see Chapter II below), praying for the “return unto Zion”, a day on which Jewish national sovereignty would be, prophetically, restored as it had been under the previous Babylonian exile. That day was to come on November 29, 1947 when the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181.


Until the eighteenth century, the Jewish people in the Diaspora were seen both as a religion and as a nation.

  • As a nation they made attempts to return to the Land but were frustrated by conflicts from emanating from without.
  • As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen.

However, civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be anything other than second-class subjects.

It needed the sixteenth century reformation in Christianity and the rise of the nation state in the eighteenth, for Jewish religious imperatives to be redirected and asserted towards the possibility of reviving the notion of a Jewish State in Palestine. However, religious motivation from within was insufficient to meet the economic and political challenge. It required the addition of European anti-Semitism later in the nineteenth century to motivate secular and emancipated Jews to organise politically – in a decentralised movement, meeting centrally at its annual congresses – to advance their political objective for matters.

The emergence of the possibility of the establishment of Israel as a Jewish State came to materialise as a consequence of World War I which saw the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and World War II which saw the decline of the British Empire. As central power became less effective, so burgeoned the demand for self-determination and the illegitimacy of colonialism backed by American democratic ideals.

In the political restructuring of Europe and the Middle East following the conclusion of WWI, the articulated voice of the Jewish people made itself heard among the nations as did the voices of the Arabs. Although both Zionists and some Arab leaders saw the possibility of working together in regional co-operation, the Great Powers had their own interests in the Middle East to consider:

  • America wanted political stability in the region, secure access to oil and to replace Britain as the Great Power;
  • France sought to protect what was left of her commercial and cultural interests despite the fact that she played no significant part in the war for control of the Middle East;
  • Britain maintained her belief in a continuing need to be able to control – a little or no cost to herself – the Suez Canal to ensure a secure passage to India, access to the Iranian and Syrian oil fields and her commercial interests in the Far East.
    Co-incidentally she also had an interest in containing the expansion of French influence in the region.

For the Allies, an independent and unified Arab Middle East did not bode well if they were to achieve these diverse and conflicting objectives.  To the extent that Jewish interests coincided with those of the Great Powers generally, and of Great Britain in particular, they were accommodated, but in so doing they were played off against Arab tribal sensibilities and Islamic religious principles.

Israel’s contemporary claim to legitimacy is premised on:

  • an uninterrupted physical, spiritual and cultural connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel since before the second century – as expanded in Chapter II;
  • involuntary dislocation and dispersion  of the majority the Jewish people from the land since the second century;
  • the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire after World War I which gave the impetus to the rise of both Jewish and Arab nationalism;
  • the victory of the Allies over the Central  powers and the disposition of the conquered territory in accordance with a new regime introduced into international law – mandate or trustee territory;
  • the Balfour Declaration expressing its support for the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
  • The Treaty of Sevres 1920, under which Turkey ceded its sovereignty over Palestine and accepted the Balfour declaration with its incorporation into the Mandate as an international agreement. This formed a constituent part of the Middle East post war settlement between the Allied and Central Powers in which Turkey, Britain and the United States participated and in which both Jews and Arab expressed their interests.

Notwithstanding attempts by the British mandatory power to frustrate the clear objectives of the Mandate, and despite the fomentation of Islamic religious opposition against the establishment of a Jewish homeland, the Jewish people succeeded in creating a viable political and economic entity.


British financial investment and a colonial style of government coupled with an infusion of Jewish capital, migration and labour brought a higher standard of living to the Palestinian population – both Arab and Jewish
-  than that enjoyed in the neighbouring states.


However, the economic advances in Palestine attracted Arab immigration from outside of its borders.  Rather that regulating such Arab
migration, the British Administration, contrary to the terms of the Mandate, placed restrictions on Jewish immigration to Palestine which prevented the creation of a Jewish majority in cis-Jordan – Palestine;

  • Arab violence fomented by anti-Zionist elements in the British Administration, and the continued demographic Jewish imbalance made more favourable to the Arabs by British immigration policy ultimately led to violence between Arab and Jew.
  • The Mandatory found its solution in a proposal to partition the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River between Arab and Jew while retaining certain strategic locations to itself.
  • The Jews accepted the Mandatory’s partition proposal but the Arabs rejected it.


World War II intervened, creating the Holocaust.

Although this tragedy gave a big impetus towards partition, British policy remained steadfastly against any change in its Palestinian immigration policy, with the result that Jews became actively obstructive to continued British rule, both civilly and militarily:

  • Britain, unable to control the violence directed against her Administration, referred the matter to the United Nations General Assembly;
  • The Assembly recommended in Resolution 181, passed on November 29, 1947, the partition of Palestine into two states, one Jewish and one Arab.
  • Again the Jews accepted the proposal, but the Arabs rejected it.

Britain decided to surrender its mandate. In the process of the British military withdrawal, armed conflict broke out between Jews and Arabs with the British Administration publicly taking a more or less neutral stand while surreptitiously assisting the Arabs.

On the day following the final British withdrawal on May 14, 1948:

  • The Jewish population of Palestine declared themselves as the self governing state of Israel in accordance with the UNGA Resolution and the major powers (excluding Britain) accorded her international recognition.
  • The Arab Palestine failed to follow the same course.


Instead,

  • contrary to international law, five Arab armies invaded the nascent Jewish State but failed to eliminate her;
  • Jordan became an occupying power of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria including Jerusalem) and Egypt took control of the Gaza strip.

In the process,

  • between 600,000 and 800,000 Arab Palestinians left or abandoned their homes on the advice of the Arab leadership, or for fear of Jewish brutality which failed to emerge, while a number Palestinians were driven out in the military confrontation between Jewish forces and the Arab armies;
  • the Jewish population living in East Jerusalem, the West Bank (Etzion Block) and Gaza were killed or evicted; and
  • the surrounding Arab states evicted, without compensation, their Jewish population which numbered over 800,000 in consequence of the establishment of the Jewish state.

A humanitarian problem was thus created:

  • the majority of Palestinian Arab refugees found themselves languishing in camps located in the Jordanian controlled West Bank and Egyptian controlled Gaza or in camps located in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
  • Apart from Jordan, Palestinian Arab refugees were neither offered citizenship nor otherwise absorbed by their host states.
  • The new State of Israel absorbed all the Jewish refugees driven out from the Jerusalem, West Bank and Gaza, and those Jews evicted from the Arab states.

The United Nations ultimately arranged a cease fire between the belligerents:

  • Israel organised itself as a civic society within the cease fire-lines as determined in Armistice Agreements made between herself and the invading states- Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt respectively, while reserving her claims over the territory held by Jordan and Egypt.

However:

  • the Armistice Agreements were constantly breached by Arab terrorist infiltration emanating out of Jordan and Egypt; and
  • Egypt breached international law and the Armistice Agreement with Israel by blockading the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping intermittently from 1948 until 1956, thereby prevented free access to the Israeli southern port of Eilat, as well as closing the Suez Canal to all shipping bound for other Israeli ports. http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Foreign+Relations/Israels+Foreign+Relations+since+1947/1947-1974/FREEDOM+OF+NAVIGATION-+INTRODUCTION.htm ;
  • The blockade was broken by a joint British, French and Israeli attack on the Suez Canal in 1956 in response to Egypt’s nationalisation of the international waterway. As part of the withdrawal arrangements, UN peace-keeping troops were stationed along the Egyptian border with Israel while the maritime nations gave their undertaking to support Israel should Egypt seek to re-impose its blockade.

In 1967,

  • Egypt re-imposed its maritime blockade in the Straits of Tiran and closed the Canal to Israel shipping;
  • the maritime nations failed to implement their guarantee,
  • the UN removed its peace-keeping force; and
  • the armies of Egypt, Syria and Jordan were poised in offensive mode against Israel which was threatened with annihilation.

Israel’s appeals to the Security Council were in vain and on June 5, 1967 she executed pre-emptive self defensive strikes against Egypt, and Syria and retaliated against Jordanian attack, in what later became known as the “Six Day War.”

  • Israel overcame the immediate threats facing her and gained control and occupation of
    • the previously held Jordanian positions on the West side of the Jordan River including Jerusalem;
    • Egyptian occupied Gaza Strip and Egyptian sovereign territory in Sinai;
    • Syrian sovereign territory in  the Golan Heights
  • The Arabs rejected Israeli offers of peace at the Khartoum: “no negotiation; no recognition and no peace.”
  • The United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 242 which was accepted by both Jews and Arabs. Unfortunately the terms of the Resolution have been interpreted differently by the parties.

With intensive American support, extended peace negotiations took place between Israel and her adversaries in the 1980’s and a cold peace reigns between Israel and Egypt which regained all of  the territory it lost in 1967.
A slightly warmer peace pertains with Jordan which relinquished in favour of the Palestinians all its claims to the territory lying to the west of the Jordan River.

In taking military control of the West Bank and Gaza, over which no state has exercised legitimate sovereignty since the Ottoman defeat in 1920, Israel has the best claim to title based on the Treaty of Sevres 1920, Article 95; Palestine Mandate 1922, Article 8 and on the UN Charter, Article 80.

  • Based on the above international agreements and also consistent with the laws of belligerent occupation Israel, has also erected a number of military outposts in the West Bank territory to maintain the peace as well as establishing a number of civilian settlement blocks in the West Bank. Some of these have been erected on land owned by Jews prior to 1948 and others on undeveloped and unoccupied public or waste land owned by the Ottoman government in 1918.
  • While not illegal, a significant number of settlements have created a political obstacle to peace.

Following secret direct negotiations between Israel, led by Yitzhak Rabin, and the PLO, headed by Yassir Arafat, the parties succeeded – with Norwegian and American assistance – to agree the Oslo Accords in 1993 which included

  • mutual recognition of the opposing party;
  • an undertaking by Israel for a transfer of civilian powers to a Palestinian Authority, the members of which were to be chosen by Palestinians within the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza in free and democratic elections;
  • an interim arrangement on Palestinian self government by the Palestinian Authority for a period of five years; and
  • an undertaking to commence negotiations on a number of “Final Status” issues within three years of the commencement of the interim agreement- from which such issues had specifically been excluded.
    The Accords provided for and resulted in:
  • recognition by Israel of Palestinian aspirations and of the PLO as representing the Palestinian population in negotiations;
  • PLO recognition of Israel as having a legitimate existence;
  • An undertaking by the PLO to cease violence and to resolve its conflict with Israel by negotiation;
  • the admission into Gaza and the West Bank from their exile in Tunis, of the PLO political leadership and military of elements of  its organisation in the form of a “strong police force” to maintain the peace and suppress terrorism in Palestinian self governing territory;
  • a withdrawal and redeployment of Israeli forces from a large proportion of the Palestinian urban territory it captured in 1967; and
  • Palestinian self rule exercised over approximately 95% of the Palestinian population;

Unfortunately the parties have been able to resolve the political issues which appear to remain outstanding between them- sovereignty over Jerusalem, the extent of territorial; adjustments secure borders and the “Right of Return” of Palestinians refugees. Neither has there been a cessation of Palestinian violence.  In 2000, final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO broke down and the Palestinians resorted to armed attack on Israel’s civilian population waged by suicide bombers recruited, trained, armed and operationally directed by Hamas, an organisation linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and Fatah, one of the militant wings of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

To counteract these attacks Israel has:

  • initiated targeted killings against the Palestinian terrorist leadership;
  • temporarily re-entered a number of  Palestinian cities in 2002 to eliminate  terrorist nests and destroy bomb building factories;
  • attempted to prevent the smuggling of weapons and armaments through subterranean tunnels between the Gaza Strip with Egypt; and
  • commenced the erection of a terrorist security barrier situated mainly on  previously held Arab land on the West Bank beyond the 1948 Israeli-Jordanian cease fire lines, the route of which has been adjusted many times to minimise the personal and economic hardship to Palestinians.
    The barrier has dramatically reduced Israeli civilian casualties but its erection has brought international condemnation and an adverse advisory non-binding opinion issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The opinion has, however, been subjected to serious professional criticism as being politically motivated and based on incorrect factual information. The ICJ opinion is inconsistent with a number of rulings made by the Israel Supreme Court based on detailed and actual facts on the ground.

International intervention in the search for a resolution to the conflict has been renewed as part of a global concern over continuing instability in the Middle East generally which has given rise to fears of an interruption or even a cessation in oil supplies to the West and the bringing into question by certain Middle Eastern powers of Israel’s very legitimacy.

The United States, under its own auspices and those of the United Nations, the European Union and Russia initiated a new peace proposal – “A Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” (Road Map) in 2003. Thus far, the initiative has failed to produce any concrete results towards a rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians.


In order to reduce continuing military confrontation between Israel and Palestinian militants, Israel took unilateral action and withdrew her military occupation and civilian settlements completely from the Gaza Strip in 2005, leaving the physical infrastructure and economic assets in the form of extensive greenhouses available for Palestinian use.

Palestinian elections held in 2005 brought victory to the Hamas party, whose declared political and military objectives are the elimination of Israel as an independent Jewish State. Since then an internecine conflict has been carried on between Hamas and Fatah for control over the Palestinian Authority, its assets and political largesse funded from abroad.

The Gaza Strip, now completely controlled by Hamas, is currently (2008) being employed both for smuggling weapons and ammunition from Egypt contrary to the Oslo Accords and as a staging area for the launching of short and medium ranged rockets directed against Israel civilian targets located inside Israel ‘proper’ i.e. well within the ‘green’ 1948 cease fire line.

4. The current status

September 12th, 2008

It is difficult to find a logical historical starting point in an examination of the legal and political issues arising from this long-standing conflict.

Since much of the Palestinian argument settles around the “illegality” of Israeli action and Israeli “legitimacy” as a sovereign Jewish state, the material contained in this resource book will centre on these issues. They must, however, be examined against the backdrop of the political, social and economic components of the situation to which they gave rise.

  • At the local level most of the conflict revolves around Israel’s purported expulsion of Arabs who claim to have held land in Palestine from “time immemorial.”
  • Regionally, especially after 1967, Israel’s presence in the Middle East is viewed as a destabilising factor. Its democratic government and society – with the freedom of expression and religion- is very different to that of its neighbours and presents a threat to the more or less autocratic secular and theocratic Arab governments in the Middle East which are still tribally constituted.
  • Globally, both from a secular and religious perspective, which is now beginning to express itself far beyond the confines of the Middle East,
    • the  commercial demands by Western states, particularly America, for a politically free and stable access to Middle Eastern controlled oil must be ensured; and
    • expansionist Islam is unable to accept the existence of a Jewish state asserting sovereignty over territory considered as part of Islam’s hegemony and the fact that some of its religious adherents are placed under the “domination” of a dhimmi people (inferior “protected”) is anathema.

The Revd. Dr. James Parkes (1896-1981), one of the most remarkable figures in British Christianity in the twentieth century ( http://www.soton.ac.uk/parkes/about/jamesparkes.html ) has taken a different view from that described above and looks at the centrality of  Palestine – the Land of Israel – from the religious perspectives of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. He concludes that the connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel lies at the core of Judaism, whereas in Christianity and Islam it is more peripheral. (James Parkes, A History of Palestine from 135 A.D. to Modern Times, Victor, Gollancz, London, 1949; also  Whose Land? A History of the Peoples of Palestine, Penguin Books,  Harmondsworth, Mddx,1970)

In Parkes’ opinion, Palestine owes its unique position in the international political arena because the members of three world religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – are concerned in its destiny despite the fact that most of their respective adherents do not dwell in the country. Nevertheless, Palestine (the historical Roman name applied to the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast) has an unequalled prominence in Judaism which placed, and still continues to place, an emphasis on its physical occupation different from that expressed in Christianity and Islam:

  • For Muslims, the issue is not Palestine as a Holy Land, but Jerusalem as a Holy City – third holiest shrine in Islam – where according to Muslim belief, it was to and from “the furthest mosque” that Muhammad was miraculously transported in order to make his ascent into heaven.
    • ”Glory to He who took His servant by night from the Sacred Mosque to the furthest mosque”. (Subhana allathina asra bi-‘abdihi laylatan min al-masjidi al-harami ila al-masjidi al-aqsa.)
    However, the Koran makes no specific reference to Jerusalem. Only some considerable time after Mohammad’s death, and for political reasons, did Islam link the “furthest mosque” to Jerusalem.

    In contrast, Jerusalem (and its synonym, Zion) appears 823 times in the Jewish Bible and in the Christian New Testament, Jerusalem is mentioned 154 times and Zion 7 times.

    (Daniel Pipes, The Muslim Claim to Jerusalem, Middle East September 2001 http://www.danielpipes.org/article/84#Aqsa )

    In Islam, the central emphasis of religious practice is on the submission of the individual to the will of Allah. The Koran is not the history of the Arab people; all Muslims are equal, whatever their colour, nationality or country.

  • For Christians, Palestine is the Holy Land in which Jesus Christ lived his earthly life. In this sense it is unique and has no rival. But Christianity is neither tied to any particular geographical area nor to any particular people. Its central religious emphasis is on personal salvation and on the “second coming” of the Messiah –Jesus – marking the end of the world and the final judgment. Apart from pilgrimage, Christianity is disconnected with the Land; there is no religious obligation to settle there as there is in Judaism.
    The New Testament contains the history of no country; it passes freely from the Palestinian landscape of the Gospels to the Hellenistic and Roman landscape of the later books and in both it records the story of a group of individuals within a larger environment.” ( Parkes, p.172)
  • For Jews, Palestine is a Holy Land in the sense of being a Promised Land where the destiny of and self-determination for the Jews is integral. They have an intense relationship with the Land going beyond that of either of the other two religions. Throughout the centuries Judaism has espoused the idea of settlement and repatriation of its adherents and possesses an all-pervading religious centrality possessed by no other land. The essential objective of the Jewish Messiah is seen in the restoration of the Jewish people from all the lands of its dispersion to the Holy Land-Palestine-Israel.The central emphasis in Judaism, however, was and is the divine revelation of a way of life to be lived by men in community in this world. It relates to the whole life of a people on earth – domestically, socially, commercially, and its relations with other peoples (pre-modern ‘international’ relations) – as much as with its religion and its relations with its God.Jewish laws and customs are based on the land and climate of Palestine; its agricultural festivals of  Pesach (Passover), Shavuot (Pentecost or Feast of Weeks) and Sukkoth (Tabernacles), follow the Palestinian seasons. Its post-biblical historical festivals are linked to events in Palestinian history, such as the joyful rededication of the Temple at the feast of Hanukkah and the mourning for its destruction on the ninth day of the month of Av in the Jewish calendar.

    Unlike Christianity and Islam, Judaism places much less emphasis on life hereafter than do Christianity and Islam and retains its central spiritual, physical and political existence in the geographical actuality of Palestine –Israel.

During the period of the exile from Palestine and its dispersion from the second to the eighteenth century, the Jewish people were recognised as both as a religion and as a nation.  As a religious group, they were compared to Christians and Muslims and as a Nation, they could be compared to Turks or Frenchmen. However civic unity in Christianity and in Islam especially, was based on uniformity of belief, within neither of which could Jewish destiny be fulfilled. This made it absolutely impossible for a Jewish group to be other than second-class subjects.

In their dispersion Jews built up a double religious life:

  • their loyalty in the lands of their sojourn was governed by the general principle that ‘the law of the land is law’;
  • Although religious observance in each community had to adjust Biblical and Talmudic law to the actualities of life under different rulers, nevertheless a continuous correspondence between communities and outstanding rabbis of the day ensured the continuity of traditional Jewish customs and ordinances as far as circumstances allowed.
    But behind these local adjustments, Jewish religious interest still centred on the Bible, on the Mishnaic code and on Talmud whose integral fulfilment could only take place in the Land of Israel. (Parkes p.173)


For other more secular observers of the Middle East, the resolution to the conflict was to be found in the return of land to the Palestinians in exchange for peace. However some have concluded that this is merely an interim stage in a longer process. The real conflict is still one of Islamic fundamentalist ascendancy.

Professor Benny Morris views the conflict thus:

    “It has become clear to me that from its start the struggle against the Zionist enterprise wasn’t merely a national conflict between two peoples over a piece of territory but also a religious crusade against an infidel usurper. As early as Dec. 2, 1947, four days after the passage of the partition resolution, the scholars of Al Azhar University proclaimed a “worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine” and declared that it was the duty of every Muslim to take part.
    …Those currently riding high in the region-figures like Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh and Khaled Meshaal, Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad-are true believers who are convinced it is Allah’s command and every Muslim’s duty to extirpate the “Zionist entity” from the sacred soil of the Middle East.
    For all its economic, political, scientific and cultural achievements and military prowess, Israel, at 60, remains profoundly insecure — for there can be no real security for the Jewish state, surrounded by a surging sea of Muslims, in the absence of peace.”

(Benny Morris, From Dove to Hawk, Newsweek, May 8, 2008, http://www.newsweek.com/id/136085)

3. Jewish “Aliyah” Attempts to Return to Palestine – Frustrated by Christian Millenium Crusades (Phase I )

September 11th, 2008

The  9th -11th centuries, saw the a rise in a Jewish movement to Palestine which believed that “aliyah” – “ascent” to the Land of Israel, would hasten the resurrection of Israel.

Jewish communities along the coast, such as those as Rafah, Gaza, Ashkelon, Jaffa and Caesarea flourished at this time and maintained cultural relations with Egypt.

  • A man from Rafa, living in Egypt, wrote a letter (discovered in the Cairo Genizeh) to the Rafah Jewish community in 1015.  It begins:

“To our beloved Rabbi Solomon, the Judge, may his soul rest in peace, and the elders and the rest of the holy community who dwell in Rafah, may God preserve them.”

  • In 1047 the Persian traveller, Nasir-i-Khusraw, wrote:

From Byzantium many Christians and Jews come to Jerusalem in order to visit the church and the synagogue there.”

However Jewish “aliya” movement to return to the Holy Land however was affected by the millennium of the 11th century.

Many people feared (or hoped) the world was coming to an end. Plagues, volcanic eruptions, crime and sin are fulsomely described by contemporary chroniclers. Barbara Tuchman in her seminal The Bible and the Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour (Ballantine Books, New York, 1988) describes the period as one of religious hysteria, in which the year 1000 was expected to bring the end of the world. It afflicted all of Western Europe like an epidemic. Hastening to the scene of man’s Redemption before the final awful moment of reckoning, “hordes”, according to some chroniclers, poured into the Holy Land, of whom a large proportion never returned.  Some died of want; some of plague; some were killed by marauding Arabs; some were lost at sea by storms or shipwreck or pirates.  Only the lucky or the well provided came back alive.

For the Jews the year 1070, the millennium since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, also brought reality to their fears of future events:

    Seljuks

  • In 1071 Seljuks (http://www.themiddleages.net/people/seljuks.html ) conquered Jerusalem from the Abbasids whose power had been on the wane for some time. The Seljuk Empire was very extensive, stretching from Anatolia to Punjab.Because that empire also included the Holy Land, it became the target of the First Christian Crusade to free Jerusalem from the control of the “Saracens” a term used initially in the Middle Ages for Fatimids and subsequently for all who professed the religion of Islam. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saracen)In the eyes of the Crusaders, both Jews and Muslims were viewed as “pagans. They therefore made no distinction between them: all were either put to the sword or burnt. In consequence upon a Crusader approach many Jerusalem Jews (and presumably others) fled south-eastwards to Ashkelon, which was fortified.

    Crusaders
  • For the Crusaders, the Jews were viewed as the source of all the trouble in the Holy Land, especially for the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre by the Fatimids in 1009 (http://www.christusrex.org/www1/jhs/TSspdest.html.)One of the chroniclers of the time, Ralph Glaber, in his Miracles de Saint-Benoit (from Migne, PL 142:655ff)(http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/glaber-1000.html) expressed his deep concern for the future and like many others he, too, expected the end of the world at the time of the Millennium.  As regards the Holy Land in general and Jerusalem in particular, Ralph was aware that “the prince of Babylon” was in command of Jerusalem, but placed the blame on the local Jewish communities in the Holy Land for all the mishaps that occurred to the Christians there:

At that time, moreover, that is in the ninth year after the aforesaid thousandth anniversary, the church at Jerusalem which contained the sepulchre of our Lord and Saviour was utterly overthrown at the command of the prince of Babylon.. . . After that it had been overthrown, as we have said, then within a brief space it became full evident that this great iniquity had been done by the wickedness of the Jews. When therefore this was spread abroad through the whole world, it was decreed by the common consent of Christian folk that all Jews should utterly driven forth from their lands or cities. Thus they were held up to universal hatred and driven forth from the cities; some were Slain with the sword or cut off by manifold kinds of death, and some even slew themselves in divers fashions; so that, after this well-deserved vengeance had been wreaked, scarce any were found in the Roman world. Then also the bishops published decrees forbidding all Christians to associate themselves with Jews in an matter whatsoever; and ordaining that, whosoever would be converted to baptismal grace and utterly eschew the Customs or manners of the Jews, he alone should be received. Which indeed was done by very many of them for love of this present life, and impelled rather by fear of death than by the joys of the life everlasting; for all such of them as simulated this conversion returned impudently within a brief while to their former way of life..[gma emphasis] . .

Jerusalem

  • The Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem

Dating from the time of `Umar, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umar) the Quarter was located in the southern part of the city, near the gates of the Temple Mount and the pool of Siloam. An 11th century document briefly mentioned it as being located opposite the Temple and adjacent to ‘the Gate of the Priest’

In the eleventh century the southern wall line was abandoned, and the Jewish quarter, now without sufficient defence, moved to the northern part of the city.

A midrashic commentary, probably from an earlier period – the Song of Songs Rabba – cites that the phrase “There he stands behind our wall” (Song of Songs 2:9) is

a reference to the Western Wall of the Temple, since the Holy One Blessed Be His Name has sworn that this wall will never be destroyed; the Gate of the Priest and Hulda’s Gate have never been destroyed”. It seems …  that the Gate of the Priest was located in the Western Wall, and that the Jewish quarter extended from the southwestern corner of the Temple Mount southward toward the Zion and Siloam Gates.

The commentary states:

the kings of Ishmael treat us well and have allowed Israel to come to the Temple and build there a place of worship and study. All the Israelites in exile that live near the Temple make pilgrimage there on holidays and festivals and pray in it. (Rabbi Avraham Bar-Hiya, 1065-1135).

  • The Crusader Siege of Jerusalem

On 7 June the crusader army camped outside Jerusalem, described in “Chronicles of the Crusades” as “one of the strongest cities in the world.”

An attempt to storm the walls on June 13 failed, and the army settled in (in the baking heat) for a siege.
Fulcher of Chartres wrote:

During the siege we were so oppressed by thirst that we sewed together the hides of oxen and buffalo, which we used to carry water of a distance of about six miles… we were in daily distress and affliction for the Saracens used to lie in wait around the springs and water sources, and would ambush our men, kill them and cut them to pieces…”

After an all out attack, the Crusaders took Jerusalem on 15 July 1099.  The Gesta Francorum (The Deeds of the Franks), written circa 1100-1101, by an anonymous writer connected with Bohemund of Antioch  (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/gesta-cde.html) famously describes the scene:

Before we attacked Jerusalem, the bishops and priests preached to us, telling us to go in a procession in God’s honour around Jerusalem, and pray and give alms and fast…

…all the defenders of the city fled along the walls and through the city, and our men, following Lethold, chased after them, killing them and dismembering them as far as the Temple of Solomon.  And in that place there was such slaughter that we were up to our ankles in their blood.

At last the pagans were overcome and our men captured a good number of men and women in the Temple; they killed whomsoever they wished, and chose to keep others alive…  All our men came rejoicing and weeping for joy to worship at the church of the Holy Sepulchre

Haifa

  • Nor was Jerusalem the only city besieged.  Albert of Aachen in his Book of Travels, refers to the conquest of Haifa by the Crusaders:

“And the city of Haifa… which the Jews defended with great courage, to the shame and embarrassment of the Christians.”

A later writer, Marcel Ladoire, a French priest (also an historian) who visited in 1719 wrote:

“And Haifa, although moderate in size, was strongly fortified, and perhaps because of this, for a long time it withstood the mighty onslaught of the Prince Tancred, who attacked it from the sea and also from the land, with the help of the Venetians.  Although the Jews fought with courage, they were overcome by the might of the invaders.”

Thus, a full thousand years after the fall of the Jewish state, there were still Jewish communities throughout the Holy Land, fifty of which are known including Jerusalem, Tiberias, Ramleh, Ashkelon, Caesarea and Gaza.