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There is a myth hanging over all discussion of the Palestinian problem: the myth that this land was "Arab" land taken from its native inhabitants by invading Jews. Whatever may be the correct solution to the problems of the Middle East, let's get a few things straight:
So, going back 800 years, there's no particularly clear chain of title that makes Israel's title to the land inferior to that of any of the previous owners. Who were, continuing backward:
As the foregoing suggests, any Arab claim to sovereignty upon grounds of inherited historical control or long-time residency will not stand up. Arabs are not native to Palestine, but are native to Arabia, which is called Arabia for the breathtakingly simply reason that this is where Arabs are originally from. All other "Arab" states - including Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, as well as the entity under the Palestinian Authority - were originally non-Arab nations that were conquered by the Muslim Arabs when they spread out from the Arabian peninsula in the first great wave of jihad in the 7th century, defeating, killing, enslaving, dispossessing, converting, or reducing to the lowly status of dhimmitude millions of Christians and Jews and destroying their ancient and flourishing civilizations. Prior to being Christian, of course, these lands had even more ancient histories. Pharaonic Egypt, for example, was not an Arab country through its 3,000 year history.
The recent claim by the Palestinian Arabs to be descended from the ancient Canaanites whom the ancient Hebrews displaced is absurd in light of the archeological evidence (Daniel Doron, Challenging Israel's Legitimacy, the truth about "Palestine," http://www.netanyahu.org/chalislegtru.html, November 19, 2001). There is no record of the Canaanites surviving their destruction in ancient times. History records literally hundreds of ancient peoples that no longer exist. The Arab claim to be descended from Canaanites is an invention that came after the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the same crew who today deny that there was ever a Jewish temple in Jerusalem.
Prior to 1964 there was no "Palestinian" people and no "Palestinian" claim to Palestine; the Arab nations who sought to overrun and destroy Israel in 1948 had planned to divide the terroritory among themselves. Prior to the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, "Palestinian" referred to the Jews of Palestine.
In any case, today's "Palestine," meaning the West Bank and Gaza, is, like most of the world, inhabited by people who are not descendants of the first human society to inhabit that territory. This is true not only of recently settled countries like the United States and Argentina, where European settlers wrested control of the land from the indigenous inhabitants during the last several hundred years, but also of ancient nations like Japan, whose current Mongoloid inhabitants displaced a primitive people, the Ainu, aeons ago. Major "native" tribes of South Africa, like the Zulu, are actually invaders from the north who arrived in the 17th century. India's caste system reflects waves of fair-skinned Aryan invaders who arrived in that country in the second millennium B.C. One could go on and on.
The only nations that have perfect continuity between the earliest known human inhabitants and those of the present day are Iceland, parts of China, and a few Pacific islands. And the Chinese case is complicated by the fact that the great antiquity of Chinese civilization has largely erased the traces of what came before, making it difficult to reconstruct to what extent the expanding proto-Chinese displaced (or absorbed) the prehistoric peoples of that region. History is very messy in regard to the geneologies of of ancient societies such as China and the Middle East. The upshot is that "aboriginalism" - the proposition that the closest descendants of the original inhabitants of a territory are the rightful owners - is not tenable in the real world. It is not clear it would be a good idea if it were tenable. Would human civilization really be better off if there had been no China, no Japan, no Greece, no Rome, no France, no England, no Ireland, no United States?
Back to the Arabs
I have no problem recognizing the legitimacy of the Arab tenure in Palestine when they had it, from 638 to 1099, a period of 461 years out of a history lasting 5,000 years. They gained that control by military conquest, and they lost it by conquest, to the Christian Crusaders in 1099. Of course, military occupation by itself does not determine which party rightly has sovereignty in a given territory. Can it not be said that the Arabs have sovereign rights, if not to all of Israel, then at least to the West Bank, by virtue of their majority residency in that region from the early Middle Ages to the present?
To answer that question, let's look again at the historical record. Prior to 1947, as we've discussed, Palestine was administered by the British under the Palestine Mandate, the ultimate purpose of which, according to the Balfour Declaration, was the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine. In 1924 the British divided the Palestine Mandate into an Arabs-only territory east of the Jordan, which became the Kingdom of Trans-Jordan, and a greatly reduced Palestine Mandate territory west of the Jordan, which was inhabited by both Arabs and Jews
Given that the Jews and Arabs were obviously unable to coexist in one state, there had to be two states. At the same time, there were no natural borders between the two peoples, in the way that, for example, the Brenner Pass has historically marked the division between Latin and Germanic Europe. Since the Jewish population was concentrated near the coast, the Jewish state had to start at the coast and go some distance inland. Exactly where it should have stopped, and where the Arab state should have begun, was a practical question that could have been settled in any number of peaceful ways, almost any of which the Jews would have accepted. The Jews' willingness to compromise on territory was demonstrated not only by their acquiescence to the UN's 1947 partition plan, which gave them a state with squiggly indefensible borders, but even by their earlier acceptance of the 1937 Peel Commission partition plan, which gave them nothing more than a part of the Galilee and a tiny strip along the coast.
Yet the Arabs nations, refusing to accept any Jewish sovereignty in Palestine even if it was the size of a postage stamp, unanimously rejected the 1937 Peel plan, and nine years later they violently rejected the UN's Partition plan as well. When the Arabs resorted to arms in order to wipe out the Jews and destroy the Jewish state, they accepted the verdict of arms. When the Arabs resorted to arms in order to wipe out the Jews and destroy the Jewish state, they accepted the verdict of arms. The Arabs lost in 1948, and they lost again in 1967, when Jordan, which had annexed the West Bank in 1948 (without any objections from Palestinian Arabs that their sovereign nationhood was being violated), attacked Israel from the West Bank during the Six Day War despite Israel's urgent pleas that it stay out of the conflict, and Israel in self-defense then captured the West Bank. The Arabs thus have no grounds to complain either about Israel's existence (achieved in 1948) or about its expanded sovereignty from the river to the sea (achieved in 1967).
The Arabs have roiled the world for decades with the complaint that their land has been "stolen" from them. One might take seriously such a complaint if it came from a pacifist people such as the Tibetans who had inhabited their land for ages and were then conquered by the Communist Chinese. The claim is laughable coming from the Arabs, who conquered and reduced to slavery and penury ancient peoples and civilizations stretching from Persia to the Atlantic; who rejected an Arab state in Palestine alongside the Jewish state under the 1947 partition plan and then sought - unsuccessfully - to obliterate that nascent Jewish state; and who never even spoke of a distinct Arab state in Palestine until the founding of the terrorist Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1964, sixteen years after the founding of the state of Israel. The Arab claim to sovereign rights west of the Jordan are only humored today because of a fatal combination of world need for Arab oil, leftist political correctness which has cast the Israelis as "oppressors," and, of course, good old Jew-hatred.
This article appeared in Front Page Magazine (www.frontpagemag.com)
August 30, 2004.
Lawrence Auster is the author of "Erasing America: The Politics of the Borderless Nation," (AIC Foundation, ttp://www.aicfoundation.com/booklets.htm). He offers his traditionalist conservative perspective at View from the Right (http://amnation.com/vfr/).
This article appeared in Front Page Magazine (www.frontpagemag.com) August 30, 2004.
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