by Jerrold L. Sobel
In response to a recent essay I had written, the following letter was sent to me by one of my readers. This is a common theme amongst two sets of people supporting the Palestinian cause: those with unmistakable animus toward Israel and Jews and others just misinformed by consistent, unremitting propaganda (a category I place this writer in).
I am 100 percent in favor of freezing settlements. What settlers are doing there is the same as what my European ancestors did to my Native American ancestors. Stealing land. It should stop. My inclination is to want Israel to go back to the 1967 borders, but I admit that I do not have the historical knowledge to understand the wars that increased the boundaries. So I'm not firm on that. But the further expansion of borders is very wrong, in my opinion.
So you might want to stop e-mailing me. Or tell me what right settlers have to take Palestinians' land. 'Cause I just don't get it?
Hi -- thanks for giving me the opportunity to explain to you why this is not Palestinian land and never was. If you approach what I will reveal with an open mind, you'll recognize that the Palestinian argument is at best disingenuous and at worst an outright lie.
From an historical standpoint, Jews have lived in the land of Israel for nearly 4,000 years, going back to the period of the biblical patriarchs (c. 1900 BCE). The story of the Jewish people; Israel; its capital, Jerusalem; and the Jewish Temple has been one of exile, destruction, and rebirth. In its 3,000 years of history, Jerusalem has been destroyed seventeen times and eighteen times reborn. During these periods of disbursement, there has always remained a constant Jewish presence in the land of Israel and in Jerusalem. For those Jews forced into exile throughout the world, one theme has remained constant: the dream of returning to their homeland, Eretz Yisrael, to rebuild and restore her to the glory of old. Throughout the millennia, Diaspora Jews to this day face towards Jerusalem during prayers.
As early as 1209 BCE, Merneptah, the son of Ramses II, following a great victory over Libyan and seafaring armies invading Egypt, made mention of Israel and the Jewish people. To commemorate his military successes, he ordered the carving of four large stones, one of which became known as the Merneptah Stela or Israel Stela. This engraved stone made reference to a revolt by Jews in Israel which Merneptah massively repressed. It is the earliest non-biblical reference to Jews as a socio-ethnic unity, powerful enough to be mentioned along with other major city-states that were also neutralized by Merneptah.
By 1000 BCE, the Israelite kingdom, also known as the United Monarchy under David and Solomon, reached its greatest extent (1004-928 BCE). Solomon's Temple, also known as the First Temple, was, according to the Torah and the Bible, the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. It functioned as both a religious site and a focal point of worship, and it was completed in the 10th century BCE.
Grievously, as is often in the case throughout history, successors to great leaders lack the vision of their forefathers. Such was the case of Rehoboam, Solomon's son, ascending to the throne in 930 BCE.
Due to Rehoboam's harsh administration of the northern tribes and preferential treatment of his own, following Solomon's death, civil war between Judea and Samaria broke out. The united monarchy split apart, with Jerusalem becoming part of the southern kingdom of Judea and ten tribes in the north constituting the northern region, Samaria. This proved disastrous for the Jewish people, as a succession of invasions spanning millennia soon befell the once-United Kingdom.
The northern region, Samaria, became known as Israel. It continued to exist as an independent kingdom until its conquest in 722 BCE by the Assyrians. Judah remained independent until 586 BCE, when this region -- containing Jerusalem, deemed the capital of the Jewish people by Solomon's father, King David -- was razed by the Babylonians under the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar. Following the conquest by the Babylonians, tens of thousands of Jews were deported to Babylonia, where they remained until freed and allowed to return thanks to the largess of Cyrus the Great. Reinvigorated by their return to Jerusalem, the Jews began to reconstruct the Second Temple, which was completed in 516 BCE.
Despite incessant propaganda by the Palestinians, Muslim Arabs, and their leftist supporters, it is important to recognize that the United Kingdom comprised two separate Jewish entities: Judea in the south, and Samaria in the northern hills. Only after thousands of years was this area west of the Jordan River renamed the West Bank by the Jordanians following their illegal occupation subsequent to Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
As mentioned, the Second Temple was built in 516 BCE only to be destroyed in 66 CE by yet another invader, the Romans. It was carried out by their procurator, Florius, in response to a Jewish revolt against bitter treatment. Since the sacking the Second Temple, the Western Wall, the last vestige of this holy shrine, stands on the spot where it was built in East Jerusalem. Jerusalem remains the most holy site in the most holy city of the Jewish religion, venerated by Jews throughout the world, and is mentioned no fewer than 825 times in the Jewish liturgy. Other than Muhammad's alleged ascension to heaven from that city in a dream, there is no other mention of it in the Qur'an. Yet despite overwhelming historical credence, Israel's sworn enemies (Mahmoud Abbas chief among them), falsely espouse that they cannot understand Jewish claims to this land.
As Roman oppression reached a boiling point 66 years following the sacking of the Second Temple, the Romans once again were faced with a Jewish rebellion. This one was massively repressed in 132 CE, resulting in the slaughter of 600,000 Jews. As further punishment, the Romans sought to blot out Jewish connection to this land (sound familiar?) by renaming it after what was up to then Israel's worst enemy: "Philistia." The name became bastardized, and hence the entire area became known as Syria Palaestina, the egregious locution ascribed to this Jewish land in modern times. Just this past week, a rabble group from the "Occupy Boston" ensemble began divisively referring to Israel as Palaestina during their illegal trespass of the Israeli Consulate.
Taken in context of the historical record and the timeline herein, it exceeds credulity that an intelligent person would accept the Islamic narrative claiming Judea/Samaria as Muslim land. Islam and its conquest of "Palestine" did not begin until 633 CE -- 1,800 years after the Jewish recognition in Merneptah Stela, 1,600 years past the grandeur of the United Monarchy of Kings David and Solomon, and 500 years subsequent to the sacking of the second Temple.
Post-conquest, Jews remaining in their homeland of 1,300 years were powerless. Forced into second-class citizenship, using a term by famed author Bat Ye'or, they lived in dhimmitude, had no rights, and were made to suffer dearly. Despite being conquered and ruled by no fewer than ten empires, governments, and dynasties which controlled the Holy land prior to the British Mandate, Jews have always inhabited this land. Despite massacres, pogroms, expulsions, and forced conversions, Jews have dwelled in their capital, Jerusalem, and surrounding cities and towns such as Hebron, Nablus, and Jericho since time immemorial. All of these comprise ancient Jewish land that the Palestinians, with impertinence and chutzpah, deem their own. To consider Jewish construction "settlements" in any part of this land constitutes contempt of historical fact.
By perpetuating the canard of an ancient Palestinian Arab connection to the Holy land, the Islamists have duped a good part of the world into believing one of the greatest hoaxes in history. To state that Jews are "stealing" Palestinian land only reinforces a maxim made prominent by the infamous Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels: "If you tell a lie long enough, people will begin to believe it."
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