Sunday, September 1, 2002

A Brief History of Israel

A Brief History of Israel
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
September 1, 2002

When one considers the Jewish calendar reads 5762 in 2002 C.E. (Common Era – as opposed to A.D. for the Latin Ano Domini {year of our Lord to Christians}), and the Islamic calendar is less than 1,500 years in existence, that should be one’s first line of defense regarding property rights in the Middle East and specifically Israel, formerly known as Palestine under British rule.

One could rightfully research further back in time to Biblical days when G-d said unto Abraham, “I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great.” (Genesis [chapter] 12, [verse] 2).

Great does not necessarily refer to numbers, but to strength. Consider the size of the Jewish population in the region in question and how vastly outnumbered they are now and have always been. It has been their strength – mental and physical that has allowed them to survive.

Israel has always fought its wars from the defensive posture, meaning, their Arab neighbors have always attacked them. The day Israel loses a war is the day that tiny Jewish state, roughly the size of New Jersey, ceases to exist. For losing Arab nations to cry over lost land in war is their own fault. They attacked and were beaten back.

Continuing with the Biblical, G-d promised the land of Canaan (Israel) first to Abraham then two generations later to his grandson Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. “Thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel…be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins, and the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it.” (Genesis 35, 11-12)

The time frame of the travels of Abraham from Ur, through Babylon – north and west of the Persian Gulf (today’s name) and following the path of the Euphrates River through Mesopotamia, through modern Syria and into Canaan was about 2000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era – as opposed to B.C. for Before Christ).
Abraham settled in Canaan and eventually died in Hebron, an Israeli city south of Jerusalem. That was at least 3,400 years prior to Islam’s existence.

Follow the Biblical story from the famines that moved Jacob’s family, found his second youngest son Joseph sold into slavery by his older brothers where he went to work for Pharaoh in Egypt and was eventually reunited with his brothers. Ultimately Moses led the People Israel out of Egypt to freedom where they wandered the Sinai Desert among others [Shur, Etham, Sin prior to Sinai, and Paran and Zin after Sinai] on their return to Canaan. Moses, of course, was denied entry into the Promised Land for he disobeyed G-d during an act of frustration. Joshua actually led the People Israel into Canaan.

Fast forward to the times of King David and King Solomon, between 1000 and 925 B.C.E. A group called the Philistines (today’s Palestinians?) occupied what is today the Gaza Strip – not controlled by Israel. The Kingdom of David, then Solomon covered a landmass much larger than modern Israel. The 12 Tribes of Israel lost much of their land at the hands of the conquering Assyrians between 850 and 722 B.C.E. and Babylonians in 587-586 B.C.E. The Babylonians also destroyed the Temple during this period. The Jewish stronghold on the region ceased and its peoples dispersed to places like Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia and Syria. They lived under other regimes, exiled from their homeland. Jews were defeated in their attempts to regain their freedom and homeland. They were defeated in Rome by Trajan in 70 C.E. Also under Roman rule in 132-135 C.E. Bar Kochba was defeated by Hadrian in Jerusalem.

By 300 C.E. Jews had settled in every part of the Roman Empire except Britain – in places like Spain, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Northern Africa and of course the Middle East. They were guaranteed freedom of religion and were allowed to practice Jewish law in disputes between Jews. There were about three million Jews in 300 C.E., a million of whom lived west of Macedonia.

After 750 C.E. most of the Roman Empire was under Islamic control, and thus so to were its Jewish residents. (Notice the time spread between Jewish existence and Islamic existence.)

“Despite many decades of prosperity, influence, trade and toleration, the Jews living in the Arab and Muslim world faced the continual danger of anti-Jewish discrimination, violence and persecution, sometimes over brief, but sometimes over long periods. From Spain to Saudi Arabia this took the form of confinement in ghettoes, punitive taxation, enforced wearing of special clothes and other humiliations as well as repeated looting and killing.” (P. 21)

1033 – More than 6,000 Jews massacred (Fez)
1066 – More than 5,000 Jews murdered during Arab riots (Granada)
1145 – Jews forced to convert or leave (Tunis)
1232 – The Jews of Marakesh were massacred (Morocco)
1250 – Jews forced to wear distinguishing marks on clothing (Tunis)
1588 – Forcible conversion of many Jews to Islam (Libya)
1785 – Hundreds of Jews murdered (Libya)
1864 – Arabs bands pillage Jewish communities, burn and loot synagogues, rape women (Jerba)
1864-1880 – More than 500 Jews murdered, often in broad daylight on main streets (Morocco)

Bear in mind Jews lived in most parts of Europe and Asia with varying degrees of success and prosecution, but the focal point naturally, remains the Middle East.

Muslim Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 637 C.E. Through 1099 Arabs and Jews had a rocky relationship. From 1099 to 1291 Christian Crusaders slaughtered the Jews of Palestine. Muslims ousted the Christians in 1291 and ruled again until 1516, at times encouraging Jewish settlement. Jews did so to escape Christian persecution in Europe. Jerusalem was reestablished as the center of Jewish learning in the late 1200s.

Palestine remained under Turkish rule from 1516 to 1918. The British conquered Palestine 1917-18, occupying Jerusalem in December 1917. One month prior, on November 2, 1917 the Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government supporting the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine – in essence a homecoming. The proposed borders look much as they do today.

“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” (P. 88)

“If, as may well happen, there should be created in our own lifetime by the banks of the Jordan [River] a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event will have occurred in the history of the world which would from every point of view be beneficial, and would be especially in harmony with the truest interests of the British Empire.” So said Winston Churchill in February 1920. (P. 88)

In 1922, Britain received a League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations) Mandate over Palestine. During the 26-year British rule over Palestine until 1948 when it became the independent State of Israel, Arabs opposed immigration of Jews and attacked Jews repeatedly – a situation that continues to this day.

Population      Arabs              Jews

1922               590,000            84,000
1931               760,000          174,000
1939               900,000          450,000
1948               980,000          650,000

Pre-independence examples of Arab terror against Jews in Palestine:

1929 – Arabs kill 60 Jewish civilians in Hebron
1929 – Arabs kill 133 Jewish civilians in Safed
23 February 1948 – Arab terrorist bomb kills 55 Jews near Jerusalem
4 March 1948 – Arabs ambush and kill 16 Jews
13 April 1948 – Arabs kill 40 Jewish doctors and nurses on their way to the Hadassah Hospital
12 May 1948 – Arabs kill 100 Jews, 15 of whom were machine gunned to death after they had surrendered at Kfar Etzion

The State of Israel was established in 1948. United States president Harry Truman became the first world leader to recognize the small state just minutes after independence occurred. Israel was attacked by its Arab neighbors in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Israel was at war with Egypt in 1956-57.

In 1978 Egyptian president Anwar Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel. Extremists would later assassinate him. No other Arab leader would follow Sadat’s example. There have been continued terrorist attacks against Israel by people from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, Israel’s bordering neighbors. In each case after Israel has defended itself in a war and has emerged victorious having captured land, it oftentimes returned land to the attacking nation.

Brooklyn rabbi Meir Kahane who immigrated to Israel condemned these returns of land. Seen as an extremist, even by other Israeli and American Jews, Kahane said of the Arabs in Israel, because they could not be loyal to their homeland, they should be “driven to the sea.” Kahane was ultimately assassinated in New York City in 1990 while giving a speech.

Think about the historic significance behind the concept of a victor in a war returning land to the defeated. If the United States did that, there would be no United States. The 13 original colonies would have to go back to Britain – others would say that land should go back to the Indians, but that’s another historical debate. All of California, Nevada and Utah as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming would be returned to Mexico as a result of the 1845-48 war between the US its southern neighbor.

Land for peace has always been touted as the cure-all by liberals to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. History dictates that the land that is Israel belongs to the Jewish people and the land that is Jordan should be the Palestinian homeland. Yet, while every Arab nation has rejected the Palestinians as immigrants to its land, it is Israel that gets condemned by the world for its efforts in self-preservation. Palestinians hold firmly to the historically inaccurate belief that the land that is Israel is their homeland. However, as long as they hold those beliefs, there will never be peace in that region of the world. To the Palestinians the only solution is the elimination of the Jews from the region and the ceding of the land that is Israel to the Palestinians.

Israel must remain steadfast, supported by the United States as its strongest ally. The United States has much to gain by the survival of Israel as well. It is the only democracy in that region of the world and continues to grow in areas of medicine, science, technology and remains a protectorate of American interests in that region.

Israel must never surrender one square inch of its land.


The Bible

Gilbert, Martin. The Atlas of Jewish History, 1993.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer living in Alexandria, VA.

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