A rare history lesson: The truth about Israel and Palestine

News of Egypt, like any country in the Middle East, inspires more discussion regarding Israel.  But a review of the facts might surprise people.

SAN DIEGO — February 3, 2011 — The verbal battle over American Egyptian policy goes back and forth. Yes, President Mubarak has ruled as a ruthless dictator. Yes, the idea of overthrowing this man and replacing his rule with an honest democracy sounds pleasant, but when the fine hand of Muslim Brotherhood appears to be pulling the marionette strings, one asks if Egypt’s potential revolution will simply pull people out of the frying pan and into the fire. The Muslim Brotherhood, for example, is not particularly shy about its goal of liquidating Jewish inhabitants in the Holy Land.

There has been no love lost between Israel and Egypt over the years and Egypt  probably never would have agreed to the current peace treaty if not for an eagerness to regain control over the Sinai, taken by Israel after Egypt attempted to wipe Israel off the face of the map back in the Six Day War. Still, for whatever reasons, Egypt, under its present form of government, is at least (technically) at peace with Israel. This will change immediately under the Muslim Brotherhood. Although few Americans would believe (or admit even if they did believe) that Israel should be destroyed, far too many are willing nevertheless to throw a good deal of the blame Israel’s direction as a result of her “illegal occupation of Palestine.”

Israel-Egypt border

Israel-Egypt border

There are few subjects laced with more historical revision than the subject of the Middle East.  For a tragic example, one need look no further than Former President, Jimmy Carter insisting that Jews should have peace talks even with the terrorist group, Hamas.

And who could forget Washington correspondent Helen Thomas’ call for the Jews to “get the h– out of Palestine”? True, she apologized out of fear for her job. Then, after losing her job anyway, she admitted that the statement leaves her with no moral regrets.

Speaking to Scott Spears on local Ohio station WNRN 1490AM, October 18, 2010, Thomas said, “I had to [apologize] because everyone was so upset. I hit the third rail. You cannot criticize Israel in this country and survive.”

When Spears asked why she made the comment in the first place, Thomas said, “Because it’s the truth. The Israelis, they’re very aggressive. They have refused to enforce or go along with some 65 UN resolutions.”

One might be tempted to comment on the utter ignorance of a prestigious journalist, but such a comment would garner fierce resistance from many sincere, misled people. Unfortunately, we have reached a point where one cannot defend Israel anymore without sounding as if he is supporting some imperial aggressor, even though Israel is a tiny country smaller than the state of New Jersey. And yet, despite this size, Israel seems to be the concern of countries all over the world, regardless of which hemisphere they inhabit or which ocean they border. And so, in order to defend Israel more accurately, this writer will challenge the mythology by answering some commonly asked questions.

“Do the Jews even have a right to be in the Middle East at all? Wasn’t there a group of indigenous people called the Palestinians, living there since the beginning of measured history? Didn’t Jews arrive after World War Two and conquer land that did not belong to them?”

This is utterly and completely false! The Jews lived in that land since the time of Moses and despite some upsets from the Assyrians and Babylonians, remained in the land for some two thousand years until the Romans displaced them. Prince Titus destroyed the temple in 70 AD. Then in the second century, Emperor Hadrian crushed a new Jewish rebellion. This time, many of the Jews were banished and others were made slaves of the Romans. A small number of Jews did stay in the land and remained there right up through the twentieth century. However, the name of the land at this time was changed because Hadrian wanted to destroy Jewish identity. He renamed the land “Syria-Palestinian.” Palestine was a Latin version of the word Philistine, an ancient enemy of the Jews who were now extinct as a people. Hadrian was deliberately insulting the Jews. There has never been a country called Palestine. This was a nickname for the Holy Land under the Romans. The people who today call themselves Palestinians are Arabs and they referred to themselves as Arabs for centuries until they were dubbed “Palestinians” as a publicity ploy by the terrorist and founder of the PLO, Yassir Arafat, who himself did not use the title “Palestinian” until after the year 1964.

“Even if this is true, well then, OK. These Arabs lived in the land for centuries.”

In ancient times Arabs could be found in many places but they did not occupy the Holy Land in any significant number until after the time of Mohammad and the spread of Islam. Muslims conquered the land from the Byzantine Church (remnants of the converted, Roman Empire) Through the years, with Crusades and other wars, the land switched ownership back and forth between the Catholic Church and the Muslims. Eventually it fell into the hands of another Muslim empire, the Ottomans. After defeating the Ottomans in World War One, the Middle East found itself under the domain of Great Britain.

Even though the Middle East became a prize of the British Empire, England had neither the desire nor ability to run that region of the world forever. For this reason, they began working to create a series of new states in which the Arabs (who had helped them defeat the Ottoman Empire) could administer their own affairs. Although the term “Arabia” was already a general description for a large part of this area, many of the Middle East countries we know of today did not officially become independent nations until the British occupation and subsequent withdrawal from this turbulent region of the world.

While working to create new, multiple states, Great Britain (with the cooperation of the League of Nations, an early proto-type of the United Nations) decided they would also offer an opportunity for Jews all over the world to return to their homeland. This invitation was called the Balfour Declaration. Needless to say, grateful Jews responded with terrific enthusiasm. Indeed, many children of Abraham did migrate from Russia, Western Europe, and other corners of the globe where they had lived for some two thousand years in ghettos at the mercy of pogroms or harsh policies of Ant-Semitic governments. A homeland of their own had been a hopeful vision to the Jews for two millennia. The most familiar Jewish toast (common at Passover celebrations) said “Next year in Jerusalem.” But few thought they were reciting much more than a pipe dream. Now they could really, truly return to Jerusalem! Just imagine how this must have felt!  The Jews were going to sojourn to a country of their own, and not just any country; the very land of their ancestors, a land where a remnant of Jews had remained since ancient times, living side by side with Muslims and Christians who also had interests in Palestine and who viewed it as their Holy Land too.

“What exactly was offered to the Hebrew immigrants by the League of Nations?”

Everything we would today call Israel, everything we would today call Jordan and most of what we would today call “the occupied territories.”

When the Jews arrived, many of them purchased land from Arab lords. In time, a terrain that had been little more than a desolate, flee bitten combination of swamp and desert, swiftly turned green with farmland and transplanted trees.  The economy also boomed, transforming this area in such an amazing way, that the term metamorphoses barely does justice. New jobs were created, resulting in an influx of Arabs from other regions who now saw Palestine as a land of opportunity and employment made possible by Jewish farmers and businessmen recently arrived from Europe.

“What was the proportion of Arab and Jew in Palestine prior to the Balfour Declaration? ”

More Arabs than Jews inhabited the land at this time (resulting from previous Muslim expansion) but the truth is, there was really only a handful of each people group, because again, the swamp like conditions limited the kind of life one could realistically enjoy in the Holy Land. The famous author, Mark Twain wrote as much after his own personal visit.  He was surprised how desolate the Holy Land looked, how little was going on there and how few people inhabited the area.

All of this changed when the League of Nations invited Jews to resettle their ancient home. Ironically, it was after Jewish business created a surplus of jobs that Arabs flooded into the territory in mass, creating a situation where the Arabs greatly outnumbered the Jews.

In paradoxical fashion, the British, after inviting the Jews to return, sold over 75 percent of Palestine to the Arabs, creating a new country called, Trans-Jordan. This is an extremely important and seldom taught fact. Please catch this:  75 percent of what had been offered to the Jews was sold behind their backs to the Arabs instead! Not only were the Arabs offered a “separate Palestinian state,” long ago, but they have been living in one since the early part of the Twentieth Century. It’s called Jordan, a country three times the size of what remained for the Jews.

The Jews accepted this betrayal, only because they had no choice. After, all a sliver of the promise was better than no land at all.

But the Arabs didn’t want the Jews to have even a sliver and fresh controversy broke out over what to do with the remaining 25 percent.

To appease the Arabs, the United Nations voted to divvy up the remaining 25 percent between the Jews and the Arabs. The Jews accepted this partition. The Arabs did not.

After the partition vote from the United Nations, Israel declared its Independence on May 14, 1948. One day later, five Arab armies invaded Israel from Egypt, Tran Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Important Note: This war had nothing to do with allowing a two state solution. Indeed, the Arabs waged war because they were rejecting a two state solution. Their stated goal was the complete extermination of Israel!

From Abid Saud King of Saudi Arabia 1947:

“ There are fifty million Arabs.  What does it matter if  we lose ten million people to kill all of the Jews.  The price is worth it.”

From Azam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arabs League 1947:

“This will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian Massacres.”

From Haj Amin El Hussein Mufti of Jerusalem 1947

“ I declare a holy war my Moslem brothers.  Murder the Jews!  Murder them all!”

Jews pleaded with Palestinian Arabs to remain in their homes.  Although many of the Arabs did flee or join the invading armies, a considerable portion of Arabs remained in Israel.  This interesting fact is seldom discussed. About 300,000 Arabs fled Israel and about 160,000 remained. Today Israel still contains a vital Arab population and these Arabs have more rights in Israel than any other Arab in any Arab country! In fact, shortly before Yassir Arafat’s death, when there was talk (once again) under the Bush administration, of a “separate Palestinian state” the Arab citizens in Israel were asked if they wanted to move, renouncing their Israeli citizenship, and live in the Palestine sector. Guess what they decided!  Some of them probably fell on the floor laughing before saying to the Israeli government, “Oh, I’m sorry.  You were serious.”

In 1948, when Israel beat the odds and defeated five invading nations, the problem of refugees came up.  We always hear about the Arab refugees from Israel.  But they were not the only refugees. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were kicked out of Arab lands too. All of the Jewish refugees were welcomed into Israel where as Arabs who wanted to resettle in Arab countries were (for the most part) denied admission.  Jordan was an exception but even in Jordan most of the refugees were confined to camps. They lived in that condition all the way up to 1967, when Israel annexed Jordan’s West Bank. Prior to 1967 there was no significant ongoing discussion amongst the countries of the world regarding Jordan’s treatment of the “poor Palestinians.”

On December 11, 1948, the United Nations drafted and ratified Resolution 194.  This was a call for the Arab states and Israel to resolve the refugee/resettlement issues but the condition was that all returning citizens would agree to live in peace. Receiving no such guarantee from the Arabs, Israel decided to postpone repatriation until her neighbors would recognize her right to exist.

In 1967, 9 different nations (Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq), declared war on Israel and promised to exterminate every Jew.

“Egypt is ready to plunge into a total war that will be the end of Israel” (Radio Cairo, May 17, 1967).

Surprising the world with a preemptive strike, Israel defeated the Arabs in just six days. At that time, their territory was expanded to the West Bank, The Golan Heights, The Gaza Strip, the Sinai, and the remainder of Jerusalem (half of which had been taken over by Jordan after the 1947 war.) This territory is frequently referred to as a part of Israel’s “illegal occupation.” I tend to hate that term and I argue against it for the following reasons:

1) When we think of occupying countries, what usually comes to mind is an aggressive empire seeking to conquer and expand, not a tiny little nation that expanded its borders only as a means of survival, to prevent her untrustworthy neighbors from attacking again.

2) Most of this land had been legally offered to Israel in the Balfour Declaration anyway, before Great Britain sold it behind Israel’s back.

3) Historically, the land had been the home of the Jews for literally thousands of years.

4) The United Nations has become so corrupt, I no longer accept their standard as to what is legal or illegal.

This is not to say that Israel has not given back land or made peace treaties. The Sinai has been returned and other territories have been slowly transferred to the Palestinian authorites. But, when two nations make a peace treaty, there is supposed to be give and take on both sides. Israel’s deal (brokered by the U.S) always goes like this. “You give the Palestinians back some land and here is what they will do:  They’ll promise to stop killing you.”  That’s the deal. Then, shortly after the deal, the promise is broken and missiles are fired into Israel from Gaza (where the Palestinians were finally offered their own autonomous rule) or a suicide bomber kills women and children on a bus.

Let me be as straight with my readers as I possibly can.  Nothing Israel does, no gesture, no concession, no discussion, will make a hill of beans of difference. They can sign a peace treaty. They can jump on board for a two state solution. It doesn’t matter.  Hezbolah wants Israel dead. Al-Qaeda wants Israel dead. Hamas wants Israel dead. Muslim Brotherhood wants Israel dead. But it isn’t limited to the terrorist groups. Palestine itself wants Israel dead. The surrounding Arab nations want Israel dead. The Persian nation of Iran wants Israel dead.

My advice to Israel: Just do what you have to do. Do what you need to do. Do what is right. The world will hate you no matter what action you take and the Arabs will try to kill you no matter how much flowery talk you participate in with our State Department.  You may as well just do what’s right.


1)  Middle East Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard, Ph.D

2) Philistine, by Ramon Bennett.

NOTE: For a fuller, lengthier, documented look at the history of the Jews and the Palestinians, just clink into the link below and read a 12 part series by Bob Siegel:

The Truth About Israel And Palestine

Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net. Comments to posts are discussed by Bob over the air where anyone is free to call in and respond/debate. Call in toll free number: 1-888-344-1170.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Bob Siegel

A graduate of Denver Seminary and San Jose State University, Bob Siegel is a radio talk show host and popular guest speaker at churches and college campuses across the country, using a variety of media including, seminars, formal debates, outdoor open forums, and one man drama presentations.

In addition to his own weekly radio show (KCBQ 1170, San Diego) Bob has been a guest on many other programs, including The 700 Club, Washington Times Radio's Inside the Story, The Rick Amato Show, KUSI Television's Good Morning San Diego, and the world popular Jonathan Park radio drama series, for which Bob guest starred in two episodes and wrote one episode, The Clue From Ninevah.

Bob is a regular contributor for San Diego Newsroom and San Diego Rostra. Bob does a good deal of playwriting as well (14 plays & 5 collaborations), including the award winning, Eternal Reach.  Bob has also published two books;  A Call To Radical Discipleship, and I'd Like to Believe In Jesus, But...

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