Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rival claims

Someone wrote and asked me, in view of the impending unilateral application for Palestinian Statehood at the UN, to compare the Islamic/Palestinian claim to the Land of Israel with that of the Jews.

1. Ancient claims: There is no doubt that the Jews inhabited the Land for thousands of years before the Muslim Arabs arrived on the scene. Not only do we have the Holy Bible, which gives minute details of the History of the People of Israel in their Land, but we have an incredible number of archaeological and historic sites, many of them still retaining their ancient names. Often the Arabs, when they conquered the Land adopted Arabic versions of these names, such a Silwan from Siloam (the pool in Jerusalem), and Jaffa from Yaffe (meaning beautiful in Hebrew).

2. Arrival of the Arabs: We know exactly when the Arabs arrived on the scene, Jerusalem was captured by the Muslim Army in 637 ce under the second Caliph Umar (or Omar). This was only 5 years after Mohammed died in 632 ce. Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Koran and there is no actual evidence that Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem. It was only after Mohammed's death that the elected Caliphs started the conquests of areas outside Arabia, and this was a case of pure imperialism.

3. The "northernmost mosque": There is a reference in the Koran to "the northernmost Mosque" which has been identified by experts as a mosque in Arabia. It was Caliph Umar who re-identifed the location of the "northernmost mosque" with Jerusalem, and he built the first mosque there after 637 ce (after Mohammed wrote the Koran) in order to establish Moslem claims to Jerusalem. The current Mosque of Umar was built in 1193 by Saladin on the site of the destroyed Byzantine Church.

3. The Balfour Declaration: The Land of Israel remained under Muslim Arab rule from 637-1095, then under the Christian Crusaders from 1095-1291 and then the Ottoman Turks from 1517-1917. At no time did the Muslims make Jerusalem their capital, they had Mecca, Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. When the British captured the Land from the Turks in WWI, and renamed it Palestine, there was a movement among some British Christians to re-settle the Jews there that was sympathetic to the aims of the political movement of Zionism that had been started by Theodor Herzl in 1897. One such Christian was Lord Balfour, the British FM who formulated British policy to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine in 1917. There was no provision for an Arab homeland there, since the Arabs had Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

4. The War of Independence: Jews had always lived in the Land and started returning in large numbers from 1880 onwards, motivated by Christian anti-Semitism in Europe. There were Arab anti-Jewish riots in 1929, 1936 and during WWII. After the War the sovereignty of the State of Israel was recognized by the UN in the Partition Plan of 1948, but the Arabs rejected this Plan and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq all attacked the nascent Jewish State. They were defeated in the War of Independence, and they were defeated again in 1956, 1967, 1973 and 1982. Finally Egypt and Jordan recognized the existence of Israel. Note that if "wars of independence" were to be nullified the US would cease to exist too!

5. Israel is the de facto State of the Jewish people. The Palestinians have never had sovereignty over Palestine and further they did not exist as a group distinct from other Arabs until the defeat in 1967. I would not say they have no claim, but their claims are insignificant compared to the claims of the Jews. Further, in their attempts to defeat and destroy Israel they have used the most despicable and illegal means of terrorism. Now they also demonize Israel and deny any Jewish historical claim to the Land. Not only are the Palestinians split between the Islamists of Hamas in Gaza and the nationalists of Fatah in the West Bank, but they have never demonstrated the degree of organization and stability required to justify having a state of their own.


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