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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Some Middle East History -- edited

This was passed on by a friend whose house was missed by 1 km this morning: “how would you and yours feel if, after 2000 years, your biggest, greatest enemies were patently favored and GIVEN a vast tract of land by the victors of WW1 and WW2, and became your most hated neighbors again---weren't jews kicked out of the "promised land" after ... Read Morelosing war upon war to Muslims?...yes, holocaust and all...but that does not mandate nor equivocate into nation-building status in same place they were defeated year prior...just think about NativeAmericans taking this country back, and sending caucasian-based peoples and others back to their regions of origin...i just ask that we all think about that, and why would folks want to live amongst those that truly despise them?...that's stupid, beyond insane...just my opinion...”

It’s an interesting question at least in part because of the incorrect premise(s) it’s based on. First, let’s be clear, like many peoples, the Jewish homeland (the last iteration of it before the modern one, was tromped and those citizens were exiled by Romans, not Arabs. Why is that important? For starters, because it takes away the simple and simplistic “2000 years” the Arabs supposedly had control of Israel and freedom from Jews. The Jews, along with the Arabs, were repeatedly kicked into and out of the Middle East by the Roman Catholic Church, the Moors, themselves, the Turks, and then the European countries and the US after the world wars. So, to answer the question, we need to look at history.

There has never been a time when Jews did not live—en masse, in large groups, in enclaves—in what is currently called Israel, as well as all over the Middle East in Arab and non-Arab countries. There has never been a Jew-free M-E. That is deeply important; The Middle East is not the Arab world with a few infidel intruders. Bear in mind that Islam is only 1400 years old, and the "arabs" were simply a lose aggregate of tribes interacting both positively and through war throughout the region. That, at the very least removes one of the claims above.

Next, we must deal with more recent history: Let’s go back to before WWI. The Ottoman Empire owned/ran/governed (however you wish to term it) pretty much all we no recognize as the Middle East. They governed in much the same way all the previous empires had of that particular area, with a sense of benign neglect until there were political or monetary needs for there to be something other than benign neglect. But in addition, they allowed what Shariah calls for—the protection of all the People of the Book; and that, folks means Jews AND Christians. Much like in the Golden Age of Spain, in which non-Muslims lived under greater taxation and somewhat harsher rules but with a great deal of freedoms, primarily religious freedoms, the Ottoman Empire seems to have not had it out for anyone except the Armenians—and that’s modern history’s first true holocaust for those of you who think it was WWII.

While Mustafa Kemal Pasha, aka Attaturk, ran things, he allowed Jews (and Christians) to purchase land, and the many Jews who had been in the land for generations as well as the many who had migrated from Russia in the first Zionist wave of the late 19th century, began buying land, sometimes having to do so several times over to overcome the great amount of bakshish and corruption that abounded.

Then came WWI. The victors took apart the Ottoman Empire and out of a colonial sense of general superiority, split the countries (with no regard to tribal histories or land claims) into “protectorates”—these were the countries we now call the Middle East, but with the European countries charged with “bringing them into the modern world” by the League of Nations (a forerunner of the UN). The near-century of warfare between Iran and Iraq is partly the outcome of this colonialism, BTW, as was all the infighting between all the Arab countries that has happened since and was only “solved” or brought to less obvious struggle with the advent of OPEC. (Hmmm…) But on with the story of Israel.

As early as the beginning of the British mandate of “Palestine,” promises were made; to everyone but the Palestinians—who were not a recognized ethnic or tribal group at the time. In fact, the Jews residing within the boundaries of the Mandate referred to themselves as Palestinians. The Brits gave all of the Mandatory area east of the Jordan river to a Bedouin tribal leader who named himself King, thus creating the “Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan” which later became Jordan. This tribe, the Hashemites, made up less than 20% of the population of that tract of land. This was a gift in thanks for their help in the Arabian Wars (think Lawrence of Arabia). The land of Israel was promised to the Jews (See The Balfour Declaration). Jordan, after these promises were filled, would agree to oversee what is now the West Bank. Gaza along with the Sinai desert belonged to Egypt.

All this means that the whole idea of the Jews having been somehow “gone” and then somehow “forced onto the Arabs” is a lie. It’s also a problem, because it hides the fact that the Jews were promised the land they had repeatedly bought long before Hitler came along with his final solution. It wasn’t until 1967, when 8 of Israel’s immediate neighbors attacked it that Israel began what is known as the occupation. Prior to that war, from the cease-fire of 1949, Jordan assumed full governmental authority over the areas of Judea and Samaria, (now referred to as “the West Bank”), but they were never considered as “occupied” despite the fact that Jordan had no legal right for that occupation which was counter to the UN Partition resolution of November 29, 1947. Israel never relinquished administrative authority over the land from which it had been attacked; Sinai, Golan, Gaza, and the West Bank. In exchange for peace, it gave Egypt back Sinai—they didn’t want Gaza. In the early ‘80s, after an Egyptian-born man by the name of Yasser Arafat attempted an assassination of King Hussein of Jordan and a coup of the Hashemite Kingdom in the name of the Palestinians, he was exiled to the West Bank—they hadn’t wanted it (or him).

As for the “Occupation”—there are many people who feel this is the biggest mistake Israel has ever made. After winning the ’67 war, when suing for peace, Israel didn’t demand the right to keep the land it had conquered (as most countries do in war), but requested the right to control those areas until such time that a lasting peace were made possible by treaty. This was approved by UN mandate 221. Check it out.

Now, Israel is demanding that right again. It’s not trying to ruin Palestinian life or kill off all the Palestinians. Israel is simply trying to protect its civilians—who have the right to live in Israel without being bombed. I know very few Israelis who don’t believe in a two state solution. But I have seen films of a lot of Arabs calling for the “final solution.”

So the idea that the Jews were ever absent from their homeland is incorrect. The idea that they only got it because of the Holocaust is only partly problematic—they’d been promised it repeatedly; the Holocaust was just a wake up call to the world that it couldn’t wait anymore—or maybe, it was a suggestion that since the world hates Jews, it can give them their own place and maybe they’ll mostly go away. The idea that the Jews are simply going to disappear may be the best wish of many, but is also not going to happen. Maybe, what we need is to get the Arab world to stop holding down the Palestinians (through laws prohibiting their education or land-ownership in Arab countries). Maybe, what we need is to get the terrorists out of government in Gaza and bring in actual government. Maybe, instead of always blaming “the Jews” we can go looking for an actual solution (not a final one)—and find that people who are well fed, well housed, well educated, and whose entire citizenry have rights tend not to allow terrorists in their midst.

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