Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

2. Egyptian Population Migrations into Palestine

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Palestinian Arabs have long argued that they have been indigenous to the area for generations- indeed some claim from time immemorial. This may be true for a segment of the population living in the hill country but in the remainder of Palestine, the reality is otherwise: there were considerable Egyptian and other Arab population movements into and out of Palestine taking place.

The indigenous population of the plains, such as it was, was migratory in character. In addition to the insecurity created by marauders, the environmental, physical economic conditions of the area were hard. Fellahin would come, settle for a short time and move on when living conditions became intolerable. In particular, other than in the hills, rural settlement was threatened by Turkoman devastation. However the Arab population increased beyond its natural birth rate due to significant migration into Palestine from Egypt fleeing from compulsory military service 1839 – 1849 or forced labour on the Suez Canal construction 1858-1869.

a.   Inward Arab Settlement of Palestine pre 1918

Inward migratory settlement came from both Ottoman (Turkish) and Egyptian sources:

i.    Ottoman Grant of Asylum to Muslim Refugees

The Ottomans granted asylum to Moslem refugees fleeing from their homelands for political and religious reasons:

  • After the French conquest of Algeria in 1830, many Algerians settled in Lower and Upper Galilee.  This region also attracted other immigrant Moslem Arabs from Damascus, and Kurds from Syria;
  • In 1878, the Ottomans permitted Circassian refugees fleeing from Christian-Russian rule in the Caucasus to settle in cis- and trans-Jordan;
  • Turkoman tribes from the mountains of Iraq were allowed ultimately to settle on the slopes of Mount Carmel;
  • In 1908, Arabs from Yemen settled in Jaffa.

ii.      Egyptian Émigrés

One of the most important Arab migrations into Palestine came from Egypt during the early and min-nineteenth century.

  • Egyptian Army Conscription
  • Muhammad Ali, (aka Mehemet Ali) the Ottoman viceroy of Egypt between 1805-1849, instituted a number of administrative reforms within his territory. Most significantly he established a standing army by means of conscription in 1829. As a consequence, many Egyptian peasants fled to Palestine to avoid such service. This was to be of little avail, because Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, invaded and occupied Palestine between 1831-1841 and they again came under his control. During this period he ‘imported’ more Egyptian labourers into Palestine in addition to those who were already there.
  • Ultimately, Ottoman forces supported by the European powers – especially Britain – forced Ibrahim Pasha to withdraw. In the process, however, his army suffered considerable desertion from its ranks, and those who escaped remained in Palestine, hiding in small settlements. British intelligence estimated that the number of troops reaching Cairo in the withdrawal approximated some 33,000, compared with 125,000 before the retreat, leaving 92,000 unaccounted for.
  • In the 1860’s over 1.5 million Egyptian labourers were conscripted for the construction of the Suez Canal, of whom 120,000 died in the process. This, too, may also have created an impetus to flee Egypt and to settle in Palestine. (Arieh L. Avneri, The Claim of Dispossession Jewish Land- Settlement and the Arabs 1878-1948, Yad Tabenkin, Efal, Israel, Herzl Press, New York 1982 (hereinafter  ‘Avneri’);  Interview Prof. David Grossman 28.07.08)
  • Employment Opportunities on Public Works Projects

Inward migration to Palestine was also stimulated by new employment opportunities. The Ottoman government commenced railway, road and port construction projects in Palestine, most of which was financed from Europe. These works created increased commercial traffic through the ports of Jaffa and Haifa and the general economic boom that attracted Arab labour from Egypt, Syria and Trans-Jordan, as well as the indigenous Palestinian fellah.

Egyptian settlers particularly were scattered among many urban and rural points, appropriating large tracts of land and lending variety and numbers to the existing population. The Ghawarna and Arab ez-Zubeid Bedouin tribes and other Egyptian immigrants settled in the Hula (near the Sea of Galilee) and Beit-Sheaan Valleys; members of the Arab el-Ufi and ed-Damair tribes settled respectively in Wadi Hawarith (near Tulkarm) and in the vicinity of Hadera;  while other Egyptian migrants settled in and around Jaffa.

The assimilation of the Egyptians with the indigenous Arab population was a drawn-out process. After his visit to Palestine in 1917, Philip Baldensperger relates that the existing population of Jaffa, although essentially Arab, contained at least twenty five different nationalities, most of them Palestinian and Egyptian Arabs (Avneri p.14).

b.   Outward Arab Migration Caused  by Personal and Property Insecurity Within Palestine

Although Arab migration into Palestine increased, the total Arab population in the nineteenth century rose only slightly, because of internecine strife leading to internal instability which caused significant emigration:

i.  numerous and incessant village and factional internal wars:

  • between “Quais” and the “Yaman” villages located near Jerusalem (see Ruth Kark and Michal Oren-Nordheim, Jerusalem and its Environs, Quarters Neighbourhoods Villages , 1800 -1948, Wayne State University Press, 2001, pp 232-234)
  • in Nablus, between the pro-Egyptian Abd el-Hadi faction and pro-Turkish Tuqan faction;
  • along the ridge of Mount Carmel seventeen Druse villages were destroyed in the chaos which followed in the wake of the Egyptian retreat from Palestine;
  • during the late 1830’s, 1860’s and 1870’s, Bedouins ousted  fellahin from  the Jordan Valley, the Sharon Plain, Beit Shean and the Jezreel Valley, leaving the land desolate and uncultivated; (Avneri, pp 20-22)
  • in the Hebron region during the late 1890’s, between the Bedouin ed-Dulam and fellahin of Yatta village.

ii.  Marauding Bedouins uprooted settled fellahin, stimulating their emigration.

The nature and extent of Bedouin attacks have been discussed earlier and they were a prime factor in creating outward migration

iii  Arab emigration to North and South America
Palestine experienced significant Arab emigration by those who perceived  a better life in the New World.  Avneri quotes Arthur Ruppin, a contemporary sociologist, as stating:

There is emigration from the Christian districts, such as Bethlehem, Beit-Jala and Ramallah to North and South America, even though in smaller numbers than in Lebanon…. The American Consul in Jerusalem (Daily Consular Trade Reports 6-6-14) estimates the emigration from the Jerusalem District at 3000 annually, of whom 30% are Christians, 35% Moslems and 35% Jews. Thus from the Jerusalem District alone, 2000 Arabs emigrated annually (pp. 25-26)

A similar population exodus occurred from the north of Palestine in the area of Safed.

iv. Escapees from Turkish Army Conscription

During World War I many young Arab men fled from Palestine in order to evade Turkish military conscription.

In addition to those fleeing from conscription, the Ottoman central military authorities concluded that the presence of Arabs and Jews in coastal plains constituted a security threat. However the regional military commander applied a discriminatory policy of expulsion. Arabs were left undisturbed. Jews on the other hand were expelled from the port areas of Jaffa and Haifa. But for the intervention of the German government, they would also have been expelled from the coastal lands which they had developed agriculturally.
(see Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism 1897-1918, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1977,pp.—)

Thus, in summary and contrary to contemporary Palestinian claims, a very large percentage of Arab settlers in Palestine were neither indigenous nor had they worked the land from time immemorial. Like the Jews, they too, were immigrants who settled only a generation or two prior to the start of significant Jewish immigration.

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

Friday, 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.

3. Jewish-Israeli Narrative

Friday, 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.

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

Thursday, 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.