Israel...The Palestinians...A Look Back

How and why do the Jewish people intersect with Islam and the Muslim people? How can one help clarify this very complicated issue. If we can agree to keep Reason first and foremost in the dialog, then we may be able to understand how we got to where we are today and how we can see our way to a more peaceful future. I am Jewish, but I am not a religious person. My roots are deep in traditions, history, education, language and culture, but not in Faith. I do not agree that Religion should be the basis of discussion when it comes to whose land is this land? The more you use Religion as your rationale, the farther and farther apart you will be. The question, as I see it, is not who was here first and thus deseves to be the sole occupiers of the land. Both parties, the Jews and the Muslims will claim they were the first. And then the discussion is over. Having said that, one does have to use the Bible as one source of history, not the only source, but one.

OK, so let's start with a brief history of the region. First of all the name Palestine, what is it's origin? The name Palestine refers to a region of the eastern Mediterranean coast from the sea to the Jordan valley and from the southern Negev desert to the Galilee lake region in the north. The word itself derives from "Plesheth", a name that appears frequently in the Bible and has come into English as "Philistine". Plesheth, (root palash) was a general term meaning rolling or migratory. This referred to the Philistine's invasion and conquest of the coast from the sea. The Philistines were not Arabs nor even Semites, they were most closely related to the Greeks originating from Asia Minor and Greek localities. They did not speak Arabic. They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical with Arabia or Arabs. Their occupation of Canaan would have to have taken place during the reign of Ramesses III of the Twentieth Dynasty, circa 1180 - 1150 BCE (Before the Common Era, more commonly referred to as BC.) The Philistines reached the southern coast of Israel in several waves. One group arrived in the pre-patriarchal period and settled south of Beersheba in Gerar where they came into conflict with Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. It should be noted that these Biblical figures are recognized in both Judaism and Islam, with some differences in interpretations, of course. Another group, coming from Crete after being repulsed from an attempted invasion of Egypt by Rameses III in 1194 BCE, seized the southern coastal area, where they founded five settlements (Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gat). In the Persian and Greek periods, foreign settlers - chiefly from the Mediterranean islands - overran the Philistine districts.

The Hebrews entered the Land of Israel about 1300 B.C.E., living under a tribal confederation until being united under the first monarch, King Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the capital around 1000 B.C.E.. David's son, Solomon, built the Temple soon thereafter and consolidated the military, administrative and religious functions of the kingdom. The nation was divided under Solomon's son, with the northern kingdom (Israel) lasting until 722 B.C.E., when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the suthern kingdom (Judah) surviving until the Babylonian conquest in 586 .C.E. The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterward, before most Jews were finally driven from there in 135 C.E. (Common Era, more commonly called, A.D.). Jewish independence in the Land of Israel lasted for more than 400 years. If you think about it, that is much longer than Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States. If there had been no foreigh conquerors, Israel would be 3,000 years old today.
In the second century C.E., after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palestina to Judea (the southern portion of what is now called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the Land of Israel. The Arabic word "Filastin" is derived from this Latin name.

In AD 135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to blot out the name of the Roman "Provincia Judaea" and so renamed it "Provincia Syria Palaestina", the Latin version of the Greek name and the first use of the name as an administrative unit. The name "Provincia Syria Palaestina" was later shortened to Palaestina, from which the modern, anglicized "Palestine" is derived.
This remained the situation until the end of the fourth century, when in the wake of a general imperial reorganization Palestine became three Palestines: First, Second, and Third. This configuration is believed to have persisted into the seventh century, the time of the Persian and Muslim conquests.
The Christian Crusaders employed the word Palestine to refer to the general region of the "three Palestines." After the fall of the crusader kingdom, Palestine was no longer an official designation. The name, however, continued to be used informally for the lands on both sides of the Jordan River. The Ottoman Turks, who were non-Arabs but religious Muslims, ruled the area for 400 years (1517-1917). Under Ottoman rule, the Palestine region was attached administratively to the province of Damascus and ruled from Istanbul. The name Palestine was revived after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and applied to the territory in this region that was placed under the British Mandate for Palestine.
The name "Falastin" that Arabs today use for "Palestine" is not an Arabic name. It is the Arab pronunciation of the Roman "Palaestina".

On December 9, 1917, as World War I neared its end, Jerusalem surrendered to the British forces. Two days later General Allenby entered the Jaffa Gate on foot, at the head of a victory procession. This act marked the end of four centuries of Ottoman-Turk rule and the beginning of thirty years of British rule.
The mandate system was established by Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations as formulated at the Paris Peace Conference (January-June 1919). Under this article it was stated that the territories inhabited by peoples unable to stand by themselves would be entrusted to advanced nations until such time as the local population could handle their own affairs. This concept was incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919.
The basic features of a peace treaty with Turkey (the Treaty of Sa¨vres) were adopted, and mandates in the Middle East were allotted to the various Europeancountriess involved.
In the case of Palestine, the administrative control, in the form of a Mandate, was given to the British. By naming this territory the "British Mandate for Palestine" the area that is today Israel and Jordan became the first and only geographic division with the name Palestine since before the Ottoman Empire controlled the area (beginning in 1517). In July 1920 the Mandate civil administration took over from the military. For the first time since Crusader days Jerusalem was again a capital city.
The terms of the British Mandate incorporated the language of the Balfour Declaration and were approved by the League of Nations Council on July 24, 1922, although they were technically not official until September 29, 1923. The United States was not a member of the League of Nations, but a joint resolution of the United States Congress on June 30, 1922, endorsed the concept of the Jewish National Home.
Like the Balfour Declaration, the Mandate recognized the "historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine," called upon the mandatory power to "secure establishment of the Jewish National Home," with "an appropriate Jewish agency" to be set up for advice and cooperation to that end. The World Zionist Organization, which was specifically recognized as the appropriate vehicle, formally established the Jewish Agency in 1929. Jewish immigration was to be facilitated, while ensuring that the "rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced." English, Arabic, and Hebrew were all to be official languages.
In March 1921, Winston Churchill, then British colonial secretary, convened a high-level conference in Cairo to consider Middle East policy. As a result of these deliberations, Britain subdivided the Palestine Mandate along the Jordan River-Gulf of Aqaba line. The eastern portion--called Transjordan--was to have a separate Arab administration operating under the general supervision of the commissioner for Palestine, with Abdullah appointed as emir. At a follow-up meeting in Jerusalem with Churchill, High Commissioner Herbert Samuel, and Lawrence, Abdullah agreed to abandon his Syrian project in return for the emirate and a substantial British subsidy.
A British government memorandum in September 1922 ("The Churchill White Paper"), approved by the League of Nations Council, specifically excluded Jewish settlement from the Transjordan area of the Palestine Mandate. The whole process was aimed at satisfying wartime pledges made to the Arabs and at carrying out British responsibilities under the Mandate. Unfortunately for the Zionists and counter to the whole expressed purpose of the Mandate in the first place, by this action more than three-quarters of the territory of the British Mandate was taken away from the potential Jewish Homeland without any corresponding action favoring the Palestinian Jews.

I have spent considerable time looking for sites that would give me a better understanding of the conflict from the Palestinian viewpoint and I have found a few. The problem for me is that right away in these sources I read words like "ethnic cleansing" and I find blatant half truths and innuendoes. They talk about that most Jews in Palestine were not citizens of the country, what country? At that point it was a land being divied up by the Europeans and formerly it was part of the Ottoman Empire and if it was ever an Arab country, it could be said to have been southern Syria, in some historical contexts. There simply was not a legitimate country called Palestine. That is not to say there were not many Arabs living there, there were. But they were either citizens of Syria or Jordan or some other Arab country. I am still not saying that these people don't have a legitimate right to claim some part of this small parcel of land as their own. They do and they were offered a Partition in 1948, but it was refused by the Arabs. I have read arguments explaining why it was refused, but I must say that I did not understand them. And whether the Arabs who left in 1948, did so at the advice and demands of the Arab leaders or because they were pushed out by the Jews or a combination of both, the fact is that there are consequences of war. The Arab nations: Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon declared war on the new State of Israel and they lost. There are consequences. No other nation in the world is judged so harshly as Israel is when it comes to consequences of war, even though in their case, the war (wars) were not statted by them. Also, the Arab nations were proudly on the side of the Germans, closely aligned with the Nazis, during the Second World War. There clearly was no love lost on either side of the equation.

Which brings me to the last point I want to make here. For those who may not be aware, Jews have been persecuted from time immemorial. From being expelled from England and Spain to the Crusades to the Pogroms in Eastern Europe and ultimately to the Holocaust in Germany and throughout Europe by extention. Good, bad or indifferent, they were Jews and for this they have been hated throughout history and we all know what atrocities come from hate. The reason for the movement called Zionism was to establish a land where Jews could not be expelled, humiliated, kept from certain jobs and clubs and universities, etc, persecuted and systematicallyy tortured and killed. Until 1967, when Israel won the Six Day War, even in the United States, anti-Semitism often went unchecked. After 1967, Jews in America walked with their heads a little higher, their self-confidence a little stronger because Americans saw that Jews would not be pushed around anymore, they were no longer weak and at the mercy of the bullies. Israel's strength had long coat-tails.

Now, it is common and accepted practice to see Israel as the aggressor, the bully, the big bad demon keeping the poor Palestinians down. It is simply not that simple. I do not want to see Arab children killed. I do not want to see any people living in inhuman conditions. I want all people to have equal rights. But the rights of others can not be at the expense of the Jewish people. Jews have been historically dispensable, but like the slogan that came out of the Holocaust says, Never Again! Somehow, both peoples have to live freely and securely, not one at the expense of the other.

That it was the land of Israel that became the Jewish homeland is certainlyl more than coincidence. The Jewish people in Israel go back to Biblical and pre-Biblical times and Jerusalem has always been the center of the land. (Also, just for the sake of information, many people argue that Jerusalem is also holy to the Muslims and it is, but not nearly as holy as Mecca and Medina.) But, as far as I am concerned, I would have been just as happy if the Jewish Homeland had been established in a less forebodingg place than in the middle of the Middle East. But where might that other place be? They talked briefly about Africa, specifically Uganda, but that didn't take hold. It seems to me somewhere in the middle of Canada where though the weather may be foreboding, at least the population was low. But as far as I know, Canada wasn't considered. The Jews were associated with Israel and Israel was to become the homeland. And so it goes......


Joe Vogel said...


Thank you for this brief history. My knowledge of the situation had some gaps which you filled in nicely.

From what I've read and understand, I also share your conclusion. I don't think most people can comprehend the collective identity and suffering of the Jews, and their need for a Zion or restored homeland.

Out of curiosity, do you know of any good books on this subject that you could recommend?

Sherril said...

Yes, I do have some recommendations. They are all books that I have read and all "vintage".
-My Life by Golda Meir
-Memoirs by David Ben-Gurion
-The Revolt Story of the Irgun by
Menachem Begin
-O-jerusalem by Dominque Lapierre
and Larry Collins

That should get you started.

mark said...

Sherril I will read and respond to your comment tommorow. Mark

Brandon Bales said...

Thanks for responding, however briefly, to my question on religion. We find increasingly as a problem with legislators a deliberate ignorance of relative cultural components within political issues. By this I am refering to local religious motivations for a given peoples actions. Sherril, is it not quite possible that even if you are not motivated by religious reasons, that Jews and palistinians are very much motivated by there religious histories, and that to them there religious past is a very "rational" claim to autochthony? Now in response to this you say policy must take the form of a completely different rationale, however I believe that understanding the cultural signs and symbols i.e. the cultural thought process is the only way to creating any policy of effecacy (check my post on real social change) to dismiss the religious/cultural issues is to dismiss your ability to get your ideas to resinate with the locals.

Brandon Bales said...

What I'm trying to say is good post I agree with what you're saying. I also think Jews need a soverign place to call there own, but how are you going to get the Palistinians to agree with you :)Maybe I'm missing your whole point though

Maritza said...

It is such a complex and emotional issue. Would they have these issues if both sides agreed to a democratic secular government? My Muslim and Jewish friends are so deeply divided on issues regarding the state of Israel it is impossible to get logical point of views. Great post, difficult subject.

Brandon Bales said...

It would be awesome if both sides could agree to a secular. But how in the world are you going to get any of those people to agree to a secular democratic government when to them that is the most irrational thing ever? Again I think real socaial change can only happen by creating policy that is sympathetic to the elements of life that are cultural embedded(often religious)Social change is a slow process, thts starts in the school systems and takes generations to become stable.

Diane S. said...

I came to your blog this evening having cried my eyes out over the news tonight ( of Israel and Lebanon). I see no possibility of peace, and an immense possibility of incredible destruction.

While I admit that I have strong religious beliefs that affect my views on the nation of Israel, the fact remains that it is impossible to live peacably next to someone who is hell bent on your destruction. Hamas does not want peace. Hesbulah does not want peace. There can be no negotiations because there is nothing for which they will abandon their violence.

My heart grieves.

Sherril said...

You wrote:
You mentioned that religion tends to divide people, but why does it do that? Primarily because of how religious people understand their knowlege of truth as intuition.

I wonder if we may have different definitions of intuition. In March of 1992 (OMG, can that be over 14 years already!!) I went to Farber, Virginia to a 4 day workshop entitled, Recapturing the Intuitive in Therapy and Education. I am a Speech Pathologist, and I work with children with disabilities...at that time older children, but since then very young children, birth to three. The instructor's name is Suzanne Evans Morris, PhD and she too is a Speech/Language Pathologist. I have considered her my mentor for the past 15 years or so. At the time she was associated with the Munroe Institute. "INTUITION IS KNOWING SOMETHING WITHOUT KNOWING HOW WE KNOW IT." "The intuitive approach leads to quantum leaps in understanding. It is an essential component of creativity. It allows us to become more sensitive to our own needs and those of the children and adults working with us. It improves the effectiveness of our clinical Problem Solving" She was teaching us to know that whether we are open to it or not, our intuition is there for the taking and if we do open ourselves to it, we allow our consciousness' to expand. We are more open to what is wise in the innermost part of ourselves. So, this is how I understand Intuition.

To my thinking, this is the very opposite of religion. Traditional world religions are dogmatic. Religions and Religious Leaders tell us what to think and how to act. Supposedly some of it comes directly from god, but I think most of it comes both from man's (and I mean that literally, women have not been given a whole lot of opportunity to be leaders in this arena) interpretations and his own desires for how he wants the world to be. So, the leaders hold on to it for the power and the followers listen and often follow like sheep to the slaughter. Please don't misunderstand me, I know there is also beauty and wisdom and philisophical deep thought in religion, but that is another discussion. Why religion tears us apart is because each believes it has the Truth and will die and kill for that Truth and will close his mind to anything beyond that Truth. So, if my truth and your truth are fundamentally different truths, we fight and have wars and kill and rape and do a lot of distruction to defend our Truths.

Why not go with the simpler ways of Humanism? Why not celebrate our cultures, share them with others who are interested and if not, just enjoy them ourselves. Why must we preach religious dogma? Why not live by just those simple laws, like the one that Hillel espoused, Do unto others as you'd have them do unto yourself. The rest is commentary. Now go read.

You wrote:

This means that whatever one intuits in the subjective mind is the reality and has no responsibility to the group or objective reality. Religious people(and here I also mean athiests, and agnostics who have a belief system that governs their actions)need to change their epistemological approach.

I think I responded to the first part, in that I don't see religon as people's intuitions, but rather has learned dogma. AS to the second part, I actually don't think my agnosticism is my epistemology. Because I am not sure that there is or definitely is not a god, I don't live by that belief. I dont think it governs my actions. In fact, I think sometimes I act as if there is a god and other times not. I do live by many beliefs that I have learned in my Jewish education and others might say they live by those same things, but that they learned them in their humanistc education. That's fine, as long as we live and let live and don't try to force our beliefs down the throats of others. If we are good people, in the way that I think we can both agree, then all the rest is personal choice.

brandon, I sometimes wonder if we are talking past one another. It would be so much more real if we could have some of these discussons in person. Let me know if I have missed your points. I'm afraid maybe I have.


Sherril said...

You wrote:

Sherril, is it not quite possible that even if you are not motivated by religious reasons, that Jews and palistinians are very much motivated by there religious histories, and that to them there religious past is a very "rational" claim to autochthony?

Yes, I agree with that completely. I think the problem comes because in the case of the Middle East so much of history and religious history are/is (??) one and the same thing. That's why I said somewhere in one of these posts that yes, we have to understand a people's cultural and religious history and belive me when I tell you that many of the Israelies do understand that of the Arabs. Especially the Sephardim in Israel. (see link for explanation of term.....http://www.jewfaq.org/ashkseph.htm). (I still can't figure out how to get hyperlinks and other HTML tags into these comments...like bold and italics, etc.) They've lived in the Arab lands and their culture is intrinsically tied up with the Arab culture, in the same way that the Ashkenazim are with the Eastern European cultures. I think we Americans tend to be a lot more provincial (especially Bush and his cronies) and don't have clear understandings of the differences in other people's culture, language, religion, etc. This was especially true with our engagements with the Arab world. Americans know about their oil, but I'm afraid not much more. What the Americans Government, in Military and the American people learned about Arab culture and religions was too little too late (as per the pics from the Abu Ghraib Prison.)

What I also was trying to say is that for progress to be made some day, and obviously now with what is happening there in Lebaon and the Gaza Strip, that day is a long way away, they must concentrate more on the here and now and less on history because the Israelies have dates and figures and examples galore to justify why they are whre they are now and the Arabs also have their own history and ways of seeing what happened and dates and figures and when those arguments happen (and they have been happeing over and over and over again) nothing gets accomplished. They have to be able to say, what was then was then. Let us start anew.

Sherril said...

Welcome. Yes, your point is well taken. As I said to brandon, at this point with what is happening in Israel and Lebanon and Gaza Strip, nothing at all will be settled in the near future. However, one can perhaps have distant hopes that if Israel succeeds to really lessen the power of the Hezballah and Hamas (that's a really big IF) perhaps it will come about that there will be partners for Israel to talk with. It looks like now we are back to tit for tat. But as long as the Muslim terrorists are going to be the only ones who "speak" for the Muslim side, I think there will just be the status quo.

AS for if both sides agreed to a democratic secular government, again on the Muslim side it looks like it continues to be the fundamentalists who are getting the votes and secular is far from what they want and so far there is no Arab country that is really democratic. As for Israel's government, though it is a Jewish State (for reasons described above in post), it is also a Democracy with a Supreme Court and elections similar to the way they do it in England.

Again, thanks for your comment and I hope to see you again.


Sherril said...

What can I say, but that I cry with you. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, peace comes from unexpected and strange times and places. One can only hope and for the believers, pray, that such will be the case here.


Behind Blue Eyes said...

Thank you for your post. It was interesting. I've never had a good understanding of what is going on over there. I know the history, but.....it doesn't all make sense to me even though. I try to remain open to learning about it but don't like to form opinions about things that I don't entirely understand.

Sherril said...

Welcome. Talk about serendipity or coincidence. I was just browsing some blogs and I came across behind blue eyes upon looking at the comments. When I went back to see which one it was, I couldn't find you again. I guess it's a small blog world.
Anyway, I'm glad you found the info informative. Israel's relationship with the Arab nations in general and the Palestinians specifically, is a most complicated world.

Brandon Bales said...

yeah, sounds pretty good. I believe in intuition as you've defined it and actually use it as a big part of my every day life. And that is very good, until it is bad. I'm saying that intuition is dangerous when it's source is ultimatly unknowable and unverafiable. when it can have no link to the objective real world. I think there will always be an explanation for our intuitions, some times it just might take awhile to trace the chain reaction of events. THere is so much I could say here that I feel exhausted just thinking about it. We should use intuition try to find where it comes from be open to new information as it comes etc.

Brandon Bales said...

words are so tricky, yeah? As an S.P. and a student of Linguistics I'm sure you can identify with this .i.e. Intuition, belief, agnostic, humanism etc. In not knowing totally what you mean by Humanism here I go.
I'm a pre-Anthropologist so I believe in humanism. I think there is a lot of good that can come from people. I also believe that other people and the societies they create are no more infalible than myself (maybe less infalible but never totally infalible a statue is only as good as its mold, or soemother similar ditty), so in the search for truth as a description of reality, I need something more or possably in adition to humanism to feel content. I do think that humans need to talk to each other about what they think is true, that is positive productive and helpful. I also think that if a person has identified a truth that another person is ignorant of (like don't touch that hot stove, unless you want to suffer a burn)They should teach that truth to them, if they love them (and they should). This point is harder to apply to complex interactions in life because there are so many things we're not as sure about as hot stoves, but humanism would do well to be concerned with this kind of dialogue as a means of discovering truth however difficult the dialogue. And as a safty precaution to keep the dialgue on track and productive, I think the Golden Rule is a universal truth to keep violence at bay. I'm wondering again, sorry.

Brandon Bales said...

Yes. I guess if in the truest definition agnosticism is the lack of knowlege, it can lead to action that always is based on some knowlege or beliefe or desire. There are no true sceptics however, because actions reflect belief (a true skeptic wouldn't drink if he felt thirsty not being able to be sure that the injested water would quench his thirst)
What I tried to point out oh so quickly (it being a tangential part of the arguement)was that all people religious and not, operate through FAITH in a belief system, ha faith another one of those tricky words with infanite meaning but from the context hopefully you'll get what I'm trying to say.

Brandon Bales said...

I would also point out that some rutinized religious dogmas symbols rituals etc. are very helpful and constructive. These cultural dogmas of harmony and social order sould be emphasized in creating culturally resonant and sympathentic policy for other countries. I think I'll make a post on this. A little personal belief Abraham taught me.

Sherril said...

Yes, do post on what you were saying about "these cultural dogmas". You see, my belief is that it is the culture and traditions and rituals and symbols that add beaty, continuity and education (among other things) to our lives. That is why I am a cultural Jew. I celebrate the holidays. I have many Jewish symbols and objects around my house. I had a Jewish education (public education, the Jewish one was three days a week, two after school) and I was Bat Mitzvahed. I gave the same education to my children. I sent my daughter on the March of the Living. I speak Hebrew. I tell you all of this by way of showing how important these aspects of Judaism are to me. They add dimension to my life. But none of this is dogma. I observe and have and do because I choose to, not because I was told I must. You know what I was thinking about the other day. I used to see myself as having a spiritual side to me, but maybe I don't. I mean I do believe there is something out there bigger than us, but I guess I see that to be Nature. I'm just not sure that a spiritual quest is what I'm after. But I'm not sure about that.
On another note, Brandon, what is it you do? Are you a student? You are also a Mormon, yes? What does Latter Day Saints mean? I know it is another name for Mormon, but what does it mean?

Brandon Bales said...

Yeah I'm an anthropology student (sociocultural) me and Joe are childhood friends. Hopefully I can someday become a good father/family man and a progressive Anth professor. latter day saint is a reference to the new testement membership of the christian church. We take it simply to mean membership. I think etymologically there is a connection to sacred, but we would say that this only referes to being set apart through baptism, not to imply holyer-than-thouness:). so latter day saint just means a later or subsequent member. Joe and I both served two-year missions to our church, he went to guam and I went to Boston-Cambodian speaking. It was pretty life changing for us both. as it always is when you live with different people for extended amounts of time. (as you surly can attest from your time in Israel. good deliniation betwen "dogma" and "tradition".