“’Palestina’: A Precedent of Prey” examines the falsehoods inherent in the modern-day Arabic-Muslim narrative that the Land was always Arab. Ms. Peters traces the actual history of the Holy Land in some detail and we discover that the land was under actual Arab (as opposed to non-Arab Muslim) rule for a very short time after the rise of Islam; it had also been Byzantine and Christian rule for some time. As well, its population post-Islam had not always been majority Arab—in Jerusalem, in any case. There were ebbs and tides respectively of a spectacularly wide-range of cultures, but always a faithful remnant of Jews clung stubbornly to their faith and their Land in shifting population centers per conditions at the time. As of the return to Zion in the late 19th century, the Land had been virtually laid waste and severely depopulated as a backwater of the moribund Ottoman Empire. The Arab influx began only after the Jews returned to revivify the Land and create opportunities. This Jewish rejuvenation of the Land appears to be the modern-day fulfillment of Jeremiah’s (31:16) prophecy of hope for the exiled Jews,
“There is hope for your future”, says the L-rd, ”and thy children shall return to their own border.”
Note: This chapter of the book includes a detailed chart, “A Partial Chronology of Judah cum Palestine” from 70 to 1948 C.E.—Editor
The notion that Arab “Palestinians” are “emotionally” tied to their own land in Palestine is false. Scholars agree that the idea of an Arab “consistent presence” for “thousands of years” is part of a propaganda effort to “counter Zionism” and is an exact usurpation of the true Jewish claim. The claim of the “age-old Palestinian rights to Arab Palestine”, meant to appeal to the emotions is strongly rebutted by documentary and archaeological evidence in writings by important historians.
Nor have the Arabs ever thought of “Palestine” as other than “southern Syria” or as part of a pan-“Arab nation”–nor did they ever call it such until the Jews arrived in numbers. Such claims date back only to 1919, as the defunct Ottoman empire was being dismantled. Israel, in contrast, had become a nation earlier than 1200 B.C.E., nearly 2,000 years before the first Arab invasion of the land began. Before today’s Israel there was never another independent polity, even called “Palestine”, on Holy Land soil.
The name “Palestine” was coined by the Romans, not Arabs, after the bitter and costly suppression of the great Jewish revolt of Bar Kokhba in the year 135 C.E.. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Roman Emperor Hadrian was “determined to stamp out this aggressive Jewish nationalism” and changed its name to Palestina. In a similar effort to efface its Jewish identity, he changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina. Despite the post-war devastation, some three million Jews remained in Palestine.
Some Jews, however, fled Roman rule to other points, including Arabia, where they formed new settlements or joined existing centuries-old Jewish communities in the Arabian peninsula. More than one historian has noted that Medina (originally known as Yathrib), Islam’s second holiest city, was first settled by Jewish tribes. At that time even many pagan communities had converted to Judaism. And these Jewish communities dominated the economic life of Arabia; they held the best land because of their superior knowledge of agriculture and irrigation as well as their energy and industry.
But that all changed with the coming of Mohammed (ca. 621 C.E.) , who was irritated by the Jews’ refusal to recognize him as a prophet, was offended by their ridicule of his being a “prophet,” and by their economic supremacy. He had quickly determined that in order to gain followers, they must be rewarded by plenty of plunder. Mohammed and his successors systematically and brutally slaughtered all the ancient Jewish communities in Arabia, which had been first colonized by Jews at least a thousand years earlier.
The Koran tells believers to “make war . . . upon such of to whom the Book (Bible—editor) has been given until they pay tribute . .(and bring them to) a state of humiliation”. On the strength of this verse and its subsequent implementation with the few survivors of Khaybar the concept of the dhimma developed. It requires Jews (and Christians and some other “people of the Book”–editor) under the control of the Muslim rulers to live as dhimmi, robbed of their freedom, highly taxed, and subject to humiliating and degrading laws. The dhimmi was to feel himself humiliated and debased. Under that regime many Jews left Arabia and became refugees again in the Holy Land to join their bretheren, survivors of Rome’s brutal occupation.
“Arab identity” is in fact merely linguistic, say historians, and means Arabic-speaking peoples, not a racial group. But that did not deter the post-WWI Arab Congress from making such a claim. In the negotiations after the war, in 1919, an Arab Covenant proposed by Arab Congress in Jerusalem proclaimed: “The Arab lands are a complete and indivisible whole, and the divisions to which they have been subjected are not approved nor recognized by the Arab nation.”
However, that same year the General Syrian Congress claimed that the Holy Land was part of Syria, stating: “We ask that there should be no separation of the southern part of Syria, known as Palestine…” But in 1951, the constitution of the Arab Ba’ath (“Resurrection” Party, that of Assad and Sadam Hussein–editor) Party stated: “The Arabs form one nation. This nation has the right to . . . gather all the Arabs in a single independent Arab state”. And, in 1956, a Saudi Arabian U.N. delegate said: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.” In 1974, Syria’s president compromised with the its 1951 declaration: “Palestine is not only part of our Arab homeland, but a basic part of southern Syria”, he said.
Over the centuries, among the peoples who have been counted as “indigenous Palestinian Arabs” are Balkans, Greeks, Syrians, Latins, Egyptians, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Persians, Kurds, Germans, Afghans, Circassians, Bosnians, Sudanese, Samaritans, Algerians, Motawila and Tartars. A polyglot melting-pot, but always, always with Jews, sometimes and some areas as a majority.
As reported by many historians, over the centuries since the birth of Islam, diseases and the multiple conquests of Palestine involving massacres, the land was laid waste multiple times and became severely depopulated.
An Arab writer noted that, “at the turn of (the 20th) century, Palestine was . . . a poor Ottoman province, a semi-desert covered by more thorns than flowers. The Mediterranean coast and all the country were sand, and the rare marshy plains were fens of malaria which decimated the sparse, semi-nomadic population, clinging to slopes and bare hills”. Only with the influx of Jewish settlement in the late nineteenth century did prosperity begin.
The profusion of evidence of a sparsely populated Palestine flies in the face of current Arab propaganda claims that “Arabs” were present in the area for “thousands of years.” In fact it was only long after the Jews settled the land and brought prosperity that the first claims of a “Palestinian Arab” identity would be invented as well as the myth of their “age-old” tie to the land. It is clearly a cynical rewriting of history.