ARABS, JEWS, AND PROMISED LAND -
WHOSE LAND -- WHOSE PROMISE?
I was born in a land called Palestine-Eretz Israel (i.e. "Palestine, the Land of Israel!") That was its legal appellation, as found on the official stationery, the coins and stamps issued there from 1921 to 1948 during the time of the British "Mandate." My father, also, was born there, though at the time of his birth it was called the province of Southern Syria of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. His father had come to Jerusalem in 1881.
I grew up in Jerusalem, in a neighborhood called Katamon, which housed a mixed population, made up of Jews, Arabs (both Moslem and Christians) and British. As a child, so I was told by my parents, I spoke a more fluent Arabic than Hebrew. I lived through, and participated in, the upheaval of the birth of the State of Israel, in whose army I later served; and yet, like most of my Jewish contemporaries, I never came to hate Arabs. I feel, today, as I always did, that the Arab people are a good, honest, hard working people with whom we could (nay, must) live in peace.
We are living in an age of extreme nationalism, evident in the birth of more than 50 new nations in Asia and Africa since the end of the Second World War, and manifested most disturbingly in the breakup of the national ties that bound the peoples of the former Soviet Union, the "ethnic cleansing" in the former Yugoslavia, and tribal massacres in a number of African states such as Uganda, Ruwanda, Burundy and the Congo.
The issue of a "Palestinian State" has been raised again and again at international forums, from the European Parliament to the General Assembly of the United Nations. Yet, most people are quite ignorant of the facts of the Arab-Palestinian vs. Jewish-Zionist-Israeli issue. My purpose in writing this book is to inform the reader about the history and development of the issue so as to allow the reader to reach an intelligent conclusion. Surely, I dont expect that only my presentation will be accepted as "fact." At the end of the article I have given a bibliography for the serious student.
WHATS IN A NAME
The Eastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea was known in antiquity by a number of names: Canaan, the land of the Hebrews ("ever"), Israel, Samaria, and Judea. One small area, along the coast, where the Philistines lived, became known as Philistia. The area was called Pleshet in the Hebrew, and it is interesting to note that this name comes from the root palash, which in Hebrew means invade or intrude. The Philistines were not indigenous to the land -- it is theorized that they came from Crete, an island off the shore of Greece.
Many people inhabited the land at different times. The Bible mentions the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite -- and others. In the second millennia before the Christian era (B.C.E.), at about 1010 B.C.E., the land was settled and inhabited by the Israelites, who became unified in the land, under King David, into one nation-state, Israel -- with a national and religious center in Davids Capital, Jerusalem. After a short period, the nation was split into two -- Israel and Judea. Israel was conquered and exiled in the seventh century B.C.E., and Judea remained as the only state of the people who lived by the faith of Abraham and the Teachings of Moses. Because Israel fell and there was only a Judean state, all the people of that faith came to be known as "Jews" (not Judeans, though) -- even though most of them were, in fact, Israelites.
During the Roman period, the Jews revolted against imperial authority a number of times, and were totally vanquished after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 of the Christian era (C.E.), at which time the Romans changed the name of the province on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean sea from Judea to Philistia, to remove even the memory of the troublesome Jews. In the time of the Crusades, the land was called "the Holy Land" by Christians and Moslems alike, and during the Turkish Ottoman Empire it had been a part of "the province of Southern Syria." When the British accepted a League of Nations mandate to govern the area, in the aftermath of the First World War, its official appellation was "Palestine-Eretz Yisrael" (as mentioned before). It is important to note, though, that throughout the ages, from prehistoric times to this day, no people has ever made itself a national home in the area save the Jews!
Who are the protagonists of the present clash of destinies over this land?
The Jews trace their origin to Abraham, the historic figure in the Old Testament who was the first man to worship The One God. The Jews claim to be the direct descendants of this man, through his son Isaac, grandson Jacob or Israel, and his 12 sons who became the tribes of the Sons of Israel -- as documented in the Hebrew Scriptures. They further believe that the land was promised to them in perpetuity by the Creator and owner of the land -- God Almighty. It is a historical fact that has been proven by archeological research that the Jews inhabited this land from the tenth century before the Christian era.
Judea fell in the year 70 C.E., though long before that time there were already Jews living as strangers in other lands. The Romans forcibly exiled the great majority of the Jews after the fall of Judea, but some Jews remained in their homeland. Then, in 135 C.E., the Jews revolted again, and again the Romans exiled the remnant from Judea. Throughout their history, the Jews claimed the land as their spiritual and physical source and continuing fountainhead.
The Arabs trace their origin to the Arabian desert, where Islam was born in the seventh century, and from whence the Moslems (Arabians - or Arabs) mounted an attack upon the civilized world of their day, in time gaining control of all the lands (in a semicircle) from Yugoslavia in the northeast to Spain in the northwest, along the southern shores of the Mediterranean, extending inland through Asia and Africa. Of course, not every Arab is a Moslem, and not all Moslems are Arabs. The world of Islam has had its "golden age," and has been in decline since the 15th or 16th century. Islams founder and prophet, Mohammed, "grafted" the religion he preached onto the stock of Abraham by claiming that the Arabs are descendants of Ishmael, Abrahams first son, and by claiming Jerusalem as the third most holy city of his religion -- after Mecca and Medina.
It will serve no practical purpose to delve into the long history of the area, since people tend to disregard history anyhow, and since the issues we are concerned with really didnt come to the fore until the 20th century. Therefore, I feel that the second half of the 19th century is as good a starting point as any for an examination of the origin of the problem.
The second half of the 19th century was an age of the rebirth of nationalism: the French Revolution ignited a spark in the hearts of many European people who rose up to create new nations: the Italians, the Germans, the Poles, the Bulgarians, and many others. The Jews had been living in the midst of these peoples for over a thousand years -- always a people apart, always despised and persecuted. They survived because of their religious faith, the Covenant of Abraham -- part of which was a common hope of a national resurrection. In the second half of the nineteenth century, some of the Jews, who had been shunned and segregated for generations, were emancipated and allowed to join the mainstream of society. Some Jews, believing that Gentile ignorance had caused their persecution, set a goal for themselves and worked to enlighten the world. Some worked for the idealistic cause of a world society that would not recognize differences nor discriminate between peoples, tongues, or religious beliefs.
Some believed that all efforts to change the non-Jewish world to accept the Jews as members of their societies without discrimination or persecution could not and would not succeed. Therefore they now began to believe in and preach the idea of reestablishing their nation in their ancient homeland. Furthermore, they actively began to seek this end: a number of groups of young people left Europe for the Land of Israel, and many an author wrote tomes about this idea of national revival.
We may well ask, "What of the land in those days? Did the Jewish immigrants have to dispossess the inhabitants of the land?" The area was under Turkish rule until the end of the First World War. In 1867, as part of a world tour, the great American author, Mark Twain, visited the Holy Land, and wrote about it in his book, Innocent Abroad:
"...There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extend, not for 30 miles in either direction. There are two or three small clusters of Bedouin tents, but not a single permanent habitation. One may ride 10 miles, hereabouts, and not see 10 human beings. To this region one of the prophecies is applied: I will bring the land into desolation; and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it... No man can stand here by deserted Ain Mallahah and say that the prophecy has not been fulfilled!
"Gray lizards, those heirs of ruin, of sepulchers and desolation, glided in and out among the rocks or lay still and sunned themselves. Where prosperity has reigned and fallen; where glory has flamed and gone out; where gladness was and sorrow is; where the pomp of life has been, and silence and death brood in its high places, there this reptile makes his home, and mocks at human vanity..."
Though Arabs had been living in the land for close to a thousand years, they never attempted to settle down and become a nation in the Holy Land. Most of the Arab inhabitants, in fact, were nomads who did not put down roots in the land well into the twentieth century. At all times the land was a neglected province, noticed only when an invader was about to wrest control over its so called worthless expanses. Under Turkish rule, more than 85 per cent of the land was owned by the government, and another 10 percent by absentee landlords.
Why did the Jews begin to flock to the holy land? Let it first be stated, as firmly and forthrightly as possible, that, throughout the ages, since the Romans exiled the Jews (for the last time) in 135 C.E., there had always been Jews living in the Holy Land! There were always Jews in Jerusalem, with the exception of a short period after the Crusaders conquered the Holy City, slaughtered all non-Christians, and forbade both Jews and Moslems residence!
Throughout their history, Jews kept returning to the Holy Land. Sometimes they lived in Safed, in Galilee, other times in Hebron, in the hills south of Jerusalem, and always they gravitated towards Jerusalem, Davids Capital, the city that knew Gods Glory, the city of Mount Zion. Most of the rulers who came and went, again and again expelled the Jews. Yet they returned! Why did the Jews come to the land at the end of the nineteenth century? Their peers called them. Essays by Pinsker, Hess, Ben-Yehuda, and others, ignited a flame in some young pioneers long before Zionism became a movement.
According to the statistics of the Turkish Ottoman government, in 1880 there were 200,000 people living in Southern Syria, of which 25,000 were Jews. Since the Jews arrived from Europe by sea, it was easy to note and keep records of Jewish immigration between 1880 and 1948 (the year of the establishment of the State of Israel). Arab population migration took place over land-boundaries, from all the Arab lands bordering on the Holy Land, and therefore no records are available of their movement into the Promised Land. But if we keep in mind that in 1880 there were 175,000 Arabs living in the whole land, and if we recognize that in 1948 there were about 1,300,000 Arabs living there, and if we remember the rate of infant mortality among Arabs in the last decade of the 19th and first half of the 20th century we must come to the realization that the majority of Arabs who lived in Palestine in 1948 were not, in fact, natives but rather were immigrants from neighboring Arab countries!
We might further ask, why did the Arabs who had control of the Holy Land for such a long time choose to immigrate just at the time when the Jews started their national revival? The answer, I suggest, is that the land was not attractive to them until the Jews started to come there and turn the desert into a blooming garden. The Jewish pioneers brought with them a chance for people to prosper and many Arabs jumped on the bandwagon!
The first group of young pioneers, called "Bilu," arrived at the seaport of Jaffa in 1882. The Zionist movement did not come into being until 1897! The pioneers established small farm villages. The first, Rishon LeTzion (measning "First in Zion"), was established some twenty miles south east of the ancient port of Jaffa on land purchased by Baron Edmond Rothschild of France.
In the centuries of their exile, the Jews were dispersed through all the lands of Asia, Africa and Europe. They were never accepted by the peoples in the midst of whom they lived as "natives." We can observe the truth of this statement from the way we classify people by national origin in the United States. People who came from France are called "French," people who came from Poland are called "Polish," and so on, for all the countries of origin. However, Jews from Poland are not called "Poles," they are called "Jews!" Jews from Russia are not called "Russians," nor are Jews who came from France called "French," Jews from Italy, Germany, Holland -- all are called by the same name -- "Jews." They were "Jews" in all the lands where they were not accepted -- and even in America, which is different, they are still called Jews! If you were to ask a Jew, in Europe at the turn of the 20th century, what he believed to be the fate of the Jews in some rosy future time of brotherhood and peace on earth, he would have answered without any delay "a return of the Jews to their ancient homeland in Zion!"
The Arabs, on the other hand, never claimed a bond with Jerusalem and the Land of Israel: yes, the "Dome of the Rock mosque," and the "Al Aksa" mosque, the third holiest shrine of Islam, are in the old city of Jerusalem but for centuries these mosques, and the city itself had been neglected by the Arabs, and its Jewish population was greater than either the Moslem or the Christian population!
THE ORIGIN OF ZIONISM
The Jews yearning for a return to their ancient homeland, as we have mentioned before, dates back to the very time of their exile; however, this yearning had turned through the ages into a mystical belief in a "Messiah" who would bring about the return of the exiles by some kind of "celestial magic" or mystical miracle.
Thus, the idea of national revival became an article of faith, a part of the Jewish religion. Throughout the ages there arose "false messiahs" who declared the coming of the Kingdom of God and urged the faithful to begin the pilgrimage to the Holy Land and always their message proved to be empty, the road continued to be barred, and their followers suffered greatly.
In the 19th century, though, the concept of national revival was espoused not by religious fanatics and magical mystical dreamers, but by practical men who were statesmen and politicians. These men did not claim that the path to national revival will be paved by God they promised hard work, suffering, even the sacrifice of lives. They did not expect God to deliver the land into their hands by a heavenly intervention they collected funds and bought land from the absentee landlords in Beirut and Damascus. They recognized that the land they purchased to settle on would not be a blooming garden, a land flowing with milk and honey -- but a barren and dry desert, dotted here and there with swamps.
The secular movement for national revival had a number of "prophets" who called for a return to Zion: Moses Montefiore, a British Jewish financier and philanthropist, approached the Turkish government in 1839 (!) to negotiate a charter for Jewish settlement in the Holy Land -- in exchange for Jewish support for a large loan to the Ottoman government. My own grandfather, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, penned an article in 1879, in a magazine called "The Dawn," published in Vienna, Austria, in which he advocated the creation of a "national center" in Zion, a Jewish homeland that would give "legitimacy" to the Jews living throughout the diaspora by connecting them to an "old country" to claim as their root. He went on to fulfill his own "prophecy" by moving with his young wife to Jerusalem, establishing a Hebrew home and family, and becoming a journalist and a teacher, active in the public life of the Jewish majority in that city.
He argued that the national revival could only be achieved with the aid of a national language and therefore set about to revive the Hebrew tongue, which had been dormant for close to two thousand years. He published the first Hebrew daily newspaper, for which he had to create nouns, adjectives and verbs -- for articles that just did not exist in the Scriptural period, the last time when Hebrew was a spoken tongue in general use. Eventually, he recognized the need for a complete dictionary of the Hebrew language, both ancient and modern, and he set out to fulfill this need. Through his effort, Hebrew became a spoken language once again, and is today the official tongue of the State of Israel.
In 1882, another "prophet" of Jewish revival, Leo Pinsker, published a pamphlet entitled "Auto-emancipation" in which he called for the Jews to help themselves out of the "Judeo-phobia" of Europe by establishing a national state. His pamphlet created a great stirring in Russian-Jewish circles, bringing in its wake a conference of "lovers of Zion" that took place in Kattowitz, Russia, in 1884.
In the Land of Israel things were happening, too. Baron Edmond Rothschild of France and Sir Moses Montefiore of Britain were buying land and helping Jews settle on it. The first Jewish suburb of Jerusalem outside the walls of the old city, Yemin Moshe, was built and inhabited in 1861. The first agricultural school in Jewish history, Mikveh Yisrael (meaning the gathering of Israel), was established in 1870, to train Jews in the art of working the land -- which had been forbidden to the Jews since the days of the Roman empire. The first Jewish farming settlements (villages), Motza (which means source) and Petah Tikvah (which means gates of hope), were founded in 1873 and 1878. All these events took place long before the "official" establishment of the Zionist movement. These events, however, did not become a movement until the advent of a leader, a man who could bring the Jewish people together and give their energy a direction.
This leader turned up in the last decade of the century, in the person of one Theodore Herzl, a Viennese journalist from a very assimilated Jewish home. Herzl was born in Budapest to well-to-do, educated and emancipated Jewish parents who sent their son to the University of Vienna to prepare him to live well as a "free thinking" Austro-Hungarian of the Faith of Moses. He became a journalist, and was the arts and theater correspondent of the most influential Viennese paper, the "New Free Press," in Paris. France, of course, was the cradle of enlightenment, where the ideals of the French Revolution -- Liberty, equality, and brotherhood -- were supposed to flourish. Yet, after the French defeat at the hands of Prussia, the French needed a scapegoat on whom they could pin the blame for their lack of military prowess. They found their sacrificial lamb in Alfred Dreyfus, an officer of Jewish heritage from Alsace in northeast France. Alsace was a part of Germany for several centuries but was given to France in 1648 by the Treaty of Westphalia. Germanys victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) brought it all of Alsace and a large part of Lorraine. The people of Alsace spoke a dialect of the German language, and, Dreyfus was a Jew! Put all these "facts" together, and you have a guilty spy who could cost the French the war! Of course, Dreyfus was not guilty -- but who would listen to a Jewish Alsatian spy and despoiler when his guilt was written in traditional, well established French anti-Semitism?
The infamous "Dreyfus affair" inflamed France against Jews and against reason itself, and the display of anti-Semitism which Herzl witnessed swayed him from his conviction that Jews could eliminate anti-Semitism by assimilating into their chosen countries. The only solution, he became convinced, was for a majority of Jews to emigrate to a country of their own. He summarized his thoughts in a pamphlet called "The Jewish State," which he published in 1896, and he followed through on his ideas with the convening of a "Zionist Congress" in Basel, Switzerland, the very next year. This congress was no different from the conference in Kattowitz in its conception, but it turned out to be different because it concluded with the establishment of a movement Zionism! The aim of this new movement was stated as follows: "The creation for the Jewish people of a home in the Land of Israel secured by public law."
Let me recap at this point that the land the Zionists were interested in settling was more than 85 per cent barren empty of inhabitants or productivity! There are all too many "scholars" ("modern historical revisionists") today who, in the name of "fair play" and "open mindedness", will accept the claim of Palestinian Arabs that they own the land and that they lived on it before the Jews started their return. This is just not a fact of recent history -- it is a fruit of the imagination, a falsehood fabricated to give the Palestinians a claim predating Zionism. It is fantasy -- a canard. The Zionists did not envisage displacing anyone, least of all the "legitimate owners of the land" -- because there was no one to displace! The land, as we have stated, was government-owned, and the Zionists planned to buy it and settle on it. To that end, they established a fund-raising organization and a central bank.
Before the First World War, the Turkish government did not sell land to the Jews, but many Arab landowners did. They sold to the Jews land that they regarded as worthless: marshland, swamps, hill country covered by stones, and desert land covered by sand. They sold this land, furthermore, at whatever price they fancied usually an inflated price for the type of land that was sold. At the time when good, fertile land in Nebraska and Ohio was selling for about ten dollars an acre, the Zionists were paying as much as one hundred dollars an acre! Today's claim by many Arabs that the absentee landlords sold land on which they and their forefathers lived just does not stand up to examination. There were not that many Arab villages in the land at the turn of the century, and the few that existed were small, unproductive hamlets of goat herders and share croppers. As for the land the Zionists bought, very often the first task of the pioneers that came to settle in their ancient homeland was to "discover land" on the property they had obtained. They had to drain swamps, and many fell ill with malaria; they had to drill wells, and clear the stones in the hills before they could till the soil. But they were undaunted, they persevered, and in time they reaped the fruits of their hard labor.
Not only did they create a viable Jewish community, they also made the land attractive to many neighboring Arabs who came to bask in the Jewish sun of prosperity. By 1914, the year of the outbreak of the first World War, there were some 100,000 Jews living in the land. About half of them were living in Jerusalem, where they constituted the majority. Some lived in other cities -- and some 12,000 lived in the 50 agricultural villages that had been established, farming some 100,000 acres of land land bought with cold cash from Arab landowners!
THE FIRST WORLD WAR AND ITS AFTERMATH
The Turkish Ottoman Empire sided with the Germans in the First World War. The Allies, led in the area by Great Britain, mounted a campaign to unseat the Turks from the Eastern Mediterranean. The exploits of Lawrence of Arabia have been romanticized in the film by the same name but the facts have been obscured: Lawrence was a dreamer and an Arab-lover who exaggerated the size and achievement of his "Arab force," and who failed to disclose their motives. The archives of the British government reveal, however, that Lawrences army amounted to only 1,800 men in his most famous action, the capture of Aqaba in the summer of 1917, and only a scant 600 of his men took part in General Allenbys campaign to conquer Jerusalem. Even more shocking than this fact is the revelation of what motivated the Arabs to join Lawrence: The British treasury paid, in gold, the equivalent of $20,000,000 for Arab cooperation! That comes to $11,111 for each one of the 1,800 Arabs who fought at Aqaba! (Actually, most of it found its way directly into the coffers of the Arab leaders.) One must keep in mind the fact that the Arabs already had a number of independent and semi-independent nations at that time.
The Jews did not enjoy any kind of national sovereignty in 1914 yet Jewish volunteers were recruited for service in the Allied forces in the Middle East very early in the war. In 1915 they formed a transport unit, the Zion Mule Corps, numbering 650 men under the command of a British officer, Colonel John Henry Patterson, and Joseph Trumpeldor -- a Jewish cavalry officer who lost an arm fighting the Japanese in Korea with the Russian army -- as second in command. The Mule Corps saw action in the Gallipoli expedition, where they conducted themselves with distinction. In 1917, with Americas entry into the war, American Jewish volunteers followed suit, and more than 2,700 of them travelled to Egypt to join the war effort. The 38th battalion, Royal Fusiliers, followed by the 39th and 40th (known as the Jewish Legion), were all made up of Jewish volunteers who fought as regular forces with General Allenby. Another battalion was raised and supplied locally by Jews from Egypt and the Holy Land (my father served in that one). The 38th and 39th Fusiliers fought under the command of General Allenby in the decisive 1918 campaign against the Turks. All in all, some five thousand Jewish men served with the British forces in the war effort. For all this effort, the Jews were not paid one single penny!
THE BALFOUR DECLARATION AND THE BRITISH MANDATE
Jews played other important roles in the British war effort. Some served in Parliament, others worked in British industry. Hayim Weizmann, a chemist from Motol in Russia, who settled in England before World War I, gave valuable aid to the British munitions industry by finding a process to extract acetone from corn. Acetone is used in making the smokeless powder cordite -- gun powder!
The British government recognized its debt to the Jewish people, and its sympathy was translated into political action in 1917, when the Foreign Secretary of Great Britain, Lord Arthur James Balfour, presented the Zionists with a declaration recognizing their goal: "His Majestys government views with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use its best endeavors to facilitate achievement of this object,..."
This is not the end of the declaration, but before going on, I will let you in on a fact that is not well known, but to which I am privy because of my familys involvement in the events of those days: The draft declaration was presented to the British Zionist leadership just as you read it above.
It was the British Zionists, God bless them, sensitive (to a fault) to the feelings of the Arabs of the area, who suggested inserting a second paragraph, and Lord Balfour willingly accepted and continued, "...it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The Zionist leadership, in their elation at being recognized as a legitimate national movement, failed to realize and recognize the nebulous nature of the term "national home" -- or the ease with which it could be redefined to exclude Jewish aspiration to national sovereignty. The second half of the declaration, volunteered by the Zionists in characteristic Jewish magnanimity, would clinch the death-pronouncement on the pro-Zionist declaration, as it was interpreted that Jewish national aspirations were prejudicial to the non-Jewish communities in Palestine, and therefore, by the declarations own statement, null and void.
The Balfour declaration was ratified by the Allies, i.e. the United States of America, France and Italy. At the end of the war, the Allies established the League of Nations, which in turn recognized and approved the Balfour Declarations plan for the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews, and conferred the administration of "Palestine-Eretz Yisrael" upon Great Britain as a mandate to be a "temporary arrangement whose ultimate aim was emancipation and independence of the territory." The land the British received as a mandate was defined by the League of Nations as the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the boundaries of Syria, Iraq, Arabia and the Sinai spanning both sides of the Jordan river about 45,000 square miles. (See map below)
The British, however, made promises on "both sides of the fence" Balfours to the Jews, and Lawrences to Prince Feisal, son of the Sharif of Mecca, ruler of Arabia before the British (from the India office) established his rival, Saud, to rule instead. Feisal was promised sovereignty over "The Hejaz," an Arab Moslem land extending from the tip of the Arabian peninsula to the mountains above the Euphrites river. Furthermore, the British had also made a deal with the French to "share" the Middle East. France received a mandate to govern Syria, from whose territory it "carved" Lebanon, with an artificial Christian majority. To fulfill Lawrences promises, the British installed Prince Feisal as king of Iraq. At the suggestion of Arabist British advisors, a second son, Abdullah ibn-Hussein, and a band of Arab nomad warriors, entered the territory of Palestine-Eretz Israel and established themselves in Amman, on the eastern part of the Promised Land, demanding further Arab sovereignty. Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary, convened a meeting in Jerusalem in 1922, and in a "white paper" (government policy statement) arbitrarily gave away nearly four-fifths of the mandate land area -- to create the new nation of "Trans-Jordan" under the rule of Abdullah, grandfather of the present King of Jordan. Abdullah had no previous claim on this land, as he was the son of a deposed chieftain from the Arabian desert. It is important to mention that the Arab people of the Middle East had not established "nations," in any sense of that word, before the twentieth century. The "Arabs" were nomads who came out of the Arabian desert at the time of the rise of Islam, to conquer the many city-states and societies of antiquity that existed all over the area, converting them by the sword to the new religion -- the teaching of Mohammed. It is also important to note that while Christianity accepted the text of the Jewish Scriptures as the first part of their "Bible," the Moslems did not. They have their own book, the Koran, which makes references both to the Jewish scriptures and to the New Testament -- but it does not accept either one as part of its "Holy Writ.
The Arabs who lived in the Land of Israel at the end of the First World War considered themselves part of the former province of South Syria, or as part of the Arab people -- a very undefined term both in 1919 and today. Churchill's act of surrender to Abdullah was an early example of British love of the Arabs, dislike for the Jews and appeasement in the face of terrorism. Furthermore, in actuality, it did not have a legal leg to stand on, since the Mandate Territory of "Palestine - Eretz-Yisrael" was not a colony, and should not have been handled or truncated by the Colonial Office!
Appeasement or not, legal or not, promises had been made, and some were going to be kept. The "Jewish national home" was now to be established in only 10,000 square miles of originally "promised" territory. Though historic and "Biblical" Eretz Yisrael encompassed both sides of the Jordan, the Jews living in Palestine-Eretz Yisrael at the time, and the Zionist movement worldwide, were willing to live with this new, compromise arrangement, too! They paid little notice to a statement in the "white paper" that stated that His Majestys government had no intention of Palestine ever becoming "as Jewish as England is English..." It also imposed the first restrictions on Jewish immigration to "the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb..."
In the first few years of British rule over Palestine-Eretz Yisrael, in the early 1920s, Jewish immigration continued, though at a very slow pace. The Jewish National Fund (the Zionist Bank) bought 250,000 acres of land for Jewish settlements (at a cost of $21,010,400!) and prosperity seemed to be everywhere.
From the very beginning of Jewish agricultural settlement in the Promised land, the Arabs cast hungry and jealous eyes at Jewish settlements; soon they began a reign of terror, attacking villages to plunder and rob. The British, for various reasons, failed to contain Arab lawlessness, and the Jews were forced to learn the art of self-defense. In some of those early settlements, young men began to organize to protect their property. They called themselves "Hashomer," which means the guard, and they cut a very romantic figure. They carried shotguns or rifles, with crisscrossed ammunition belts on their chests; they rode Arabian horses, and they kept marauding Arabs from stealing livestock and burning crops in the villages. Still, ruthless and lawless leaders incited the Arabs to kill Jews, and to rob them of the hard-earned rewards of their labor. Thus, Jews and Arabs were polarized, fixed on a collision course. The British, catering to the Arab majority (not in Israel alone but in the whole Middle East) began a shift of policy, slowing down Jewish immigration with a quota system, and planning to stop it altogether. There were recurring Arab riots against the Jews and the British authority in 1920, 22, 23, and 1926. In 1929, the riots escalated and a massacre of Jews took place in Hebron. More than 30 Jews were murdered, many more were wounded, and the towns Jews, who had lived there since the fall of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., were forced to evacuate their homes. During the riots of the 20s, the Jewish shadow government in the land expanded and took command of the young "guards" and organized them into an underground all volunteer army named "Hagannah" which means defence. In 1936, the Arabs were exhorted by their leaders to mount a general uprising, which lasted until 1939. During the uprising, because they were short of troops to quell the Arabs, the British used Jewish volunteers to keep order in the land. Under the command of a pro-Zionist British officer, Orde Wingate, special units were formed, called "night companies," that were trained in commando warfare, laying ambushes, and bringing the war to the enemy -- rather than waiting for him to initiate the attack. These "companies" became the elite troops of Hagannah, which were called the Palmakh. My mothers brother became one of the first officers in this force, which included young men who became the great generals of Israels army: Moshe Dayan, Yigal Alon, and Yitzkhak Rabin. This Arab uprising brought about British concessions to the Arabs, among them a restriction of immigration at a time when the Jews needed a safe haven for the persecuted Jews of Europe more than at any time since the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.
THE RISE OF NAZISM
The First World War exhausted Europe financially as well as physically. In the peace treaty forced upon Germany, the victors made the vanquished pay for their defeat. As a result, the economy of the German Weimar Republic was in shambles, with hardly a chance to recover because of the high reparations it had to pay. Unemployment was rampant in Germany, particularly among the released soldiers of the First World War. German militarism was muzzled by the allies, but continued to function underground. The economic unrest and the misery of defeat combined to create a state of political instability and turmoil, which was used to good advantage by a group of despots and fanatics united under the banner of the National Socialist Workers Party (or Nazi, as it became commonly known).
At first the Nazis attracted only the less fortunate and less educated among the Germans. In 1922, they numbered less than one thousand, and resembled a club of former army veterans who liked to march around in their old uniforms. However, they soon attracted an element of young thugs who enjoyed beating up people, breaking into stores and looting, and spreading terror wherever they showed up. They undermined the elected government by means of economic sabotage and terror. In 1923, they tried to seize power by a coup, and when they failed, they resolved to work from within the democratic system to plot its destruction. The Nazis appealed to the base emotions of the Germans by playing on their fears and hatreds. They claimed to be the answer to the threat of International Communism; they played on German nationalism by claiming that Germany had not been defeated by enemies in battle, but rather was stabbed in the back from within by the "foreigners" among them (relying on a thousand years of anti-Semitism!) the Jews! They created a whole new "science" - "racism," to give the Germans a feeling of superiority as "Aryans" a master race, set against the inferior nature of other races, such as the Slavic race, which was called "under-human," and the "Jewish race," which was called "subhuman!" (Again using the deep-seated German anti-Semitic emotions.)
Though the Jews were by no means the only people threatened by Nazism, it is well recognized that the threat to the Jews was the most total; the Germans planned, and began to carry out, the total annihilation of the Jewish people! The prophetic vision of the Zionist leaders became clearly evident; living as a minority in lands other than their own, with a history of being hated and despised, the Jews could neither hope for, nor expect, succor from any quarter.
The Nazis, upon coming to power in Germany in 1933, at once began to implement their program for the disenfranchisement of the Jews; they organized an anti-Jewish boycott in which the SA (Nazi storm-troops) attacked Jewish-owned businesses, causing much damage, bodily injuries to Jews, and some loss of life.
Within the year, Jews were removed from public positions in government and the judiciary, from the press and the performing arts. A year later, the Jews lost the right of citizenship in the German state, and in 1935 the Nuremberg Laws removed all the rights of Jews in the German Reich! More than just taking away the rights of the Jews, the Nuremberg laws made it unlawful for non-Jews to associate with Jews. Marriage between Jews and non-Jews were forbidden; old marriages had to be dissolved; business partnerships were brought to an end. Jewish doctors were not allowed to treat anyone but Jews, and Jewish lawyers could not practice the law in the Nazi courts. Jews could be summarily stopped at anytime, searched, beaten, and even sent away to the "new" detention centers created by the Nazis: concentration camps!
There were some 500,000 Jews in Germany on the day Hitler came to power, and many of these Jews wished to save themselves by emigration to other lands. However, they found the doors of emigration closed not on the German side, where the Nazis were more than willing to let the Jews depart in those early years (after robbing them of all they owned, to be sure) not one nation in the world was willing to take in even a small portion of the half-million German Jews!
The problem was aggravated when the Nazis annexed Austria in 1938, and another 185,000 Jews came under the threat of extinction, and still further in 1939, with the fall of Czechoslovakia, where some 250,000 Jews resided. In the last days before the outbreak of the Second World War, these Jews tried desperately to escape the burning soil under their feet but their road was blocked from the outside! With the world closed to them, their only possible shelter might have been the "national home of the Jews" set up by the League of Nations but here, British Mandatory policy allowed a mere 10,000 immigrants per year! Europes Jewry was doomed.
In 1936 the Arab High Command under its anti-Semitic and anti-British loeaders, declared a general uprising to removed the British and the Jews from "their" land. In 1937, the Arabs of Palestine, through their leader the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, established contact with the Nazis and joined forces with them in their war aims. The British wished to avoid conflict with the Arasbs, fearing for their oil pipeline from Iraq and Syria. They published a "white paper" limiting Jewish immigration and promising the Arabs to stop Jewish immigration altogether at the end of five years. The Arabs did not appreciate the gesture - but the British carried out the policy in the face of the coming attack on Europe's Jews. The Mufti of Jerusalem spent the war years in Germany, helping the Nazis recruit Moslems to their war effort. At the end of the war, Haj Amin el Husseini was named among the major war criminals in the Nuremberg trials. However, he was never brought to justice because he was given shelter in a number of Arab countries.
THE SECOND WORLD WAR
The Second World War began, for the people of Europe, when Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939. Though the Jewish population of Palestine - Eretz-Yisrael, which numbered over half a million at that time, had been waging a war against British immigration restrictions, it was decided to put aside all differences with the British and join the war effort against the common enemy.
Vaad haYishuv, the Jewish Committee of the Inhabitants, a shadow-government within the British Mandate, called on all able-bodied men and women to volunteer for service in His Majestys Armed Forces. Nearly 30,000 Palestinian Jews eventually took part in the British war effort! After the fall of France, the United Kingdom (and its possessions) became a haven to the armies of the occupied nations - "Free French," "Free Poles," "Free Dutch" and many others paraded and fought under their national emblem. For a long time the British resisted the request of the Jews to allow them to fight under their own flag. Eventually, a Jewish Brigade was set up in the British Army, and fought with distinction in Africa, Sicily and Italy. Furthermore, young Palestinian Jews, from the few that managed to get in from Germany before the war began, established a special unit which trained for fighting behind German lines, using their complete mastery of the German language and manners, wearing German uniforms and using captured German equipment. (This disguise meant, of course, that if these young Jews were caught, they were not treated as prisoners of war, but as spies they were promptly shot!)
A number of Palestinian Jews volunteered to parachute into occupied Europe to help the war effort by broadcasting coordinates for planes on bombing runs, reporting air-raid results -- and, at the same time help in the organizing of resistance movements to slow down the German war effort and the planned destruction of Europes Jews. A number of these brave young men and women were caught by the Nazis, and executed. Nor was the aid of Palestinian Jewry to the war effort restricted to the military. The whole population joined in the war effort; by the end of 1942, some 432 new factories came into existence, turning out supplies from machine-gun parts and bullets to electronic gear, medicine and food supplies. The wholehearted support of the war effort by the Jewish population of Palestine-Eretz Yisrael was not reciprocated by the British authorities either in Jerusalem or in London.
Throughout the war years a number of opportunities opened for the saving of Jews from the Nazis: a ship was purchased in the Black Sea to bring Jews out. The British intervened with the Turkish government to prevent it from getting into the Mediterranean, or even from reaching a safe haven in a friendly (neutral) port. Eventually it sank in a storm with all its human cargo. Another ship, which arrived at the shores of the Promised Land, was made into a floating jail in the port of Haifa, and eventually a mysterious explosion sent it to the deeps with its human cargo, too. A shipload of Jewish children was discovered in Istanbul by the British, and their agents tried mightily to have the young refugees returned to the hands of the Nazi butchers who had made them orphans! Only the effort of a kind hearted Papal envoy, who later became Pope John the XXIII, saved those children from the fate that both Hitler and the British Mandatory government seemed hell-bent on delivering! They were issued baptismal certificates and given visas to Portugal. Many other chances at rescue were missed but this is not the place to list them all!
Arab participation in the war effort of the Allies was close to nil! I must be careful to note that we cannot fault the whole Arab people for this fact most Arabs had little to say in the matter, because of the kind of governments that they had. We must, however, mention that the Arab leadership, by and large, chose the side of the Axis! Syria and Lebanon, which had been under French rule, came under Axis power as a direct result of the capitulation of France in 1940. However, no "free Syria" or "free Lebanon" forces tried to fight the Nazi oppressor. Iraq had a bloody revolt against the British, and Egypt was plotting to overthrow British rule by accepting Rommels advancing army and undermining the British defense effort.
The British actually discovered a plot to transmit their plans for the defense of Egypt to General Rommel and on Feb. 4, 1942, moved tanks into the square in front of the royal palace and trained their guns on King Farouks apartment to force him to dismiss his pro-Nazi premier and give a semblance of support for their cause. Yet, despite British pressure and military presence, and even in the face of the defeat of the Nazis in Africa in 1943, Egypt did not declare war on Germany until February of 1945 three months before the complete collapse of Nazi Germany.
As mentioned before, the Mufti of Jerusalem spent the war years in Germany, and to the day of his death was one of the top wanted war criminals of World War II. While international agreement required the surrender of all such criminals to the War Crimes Tribunal, sovereign Arab nations, members of the United Nations, sheltered him and gave him a chance to continue his role of inciting the Arabs of the Holy Land to destroy the remnant of world Jewry in its ancient homeland.
Another young pro-Nazi Arab was the late leader of Egypt, Anwar el Sadat, who was jailed by the British for his subversive activities during the war, and who wrote in his biography, "Revolt on the Nile," in 1957, "I still think that if ill luck had not so dogged our enterprise, we might have struck a quick blow at the British, joined forces with the Axis, and changed the course of events." Indeed!
THE AFTERMATH OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
In May of 1945, the guns fell silent in Europe, and a shocked world beheld the full horror of Hitlers war against the Jews. The Nazis had been keeping meticulous records of the "processing" of Jews at the death camps. The gruesome tally was augmented by indisputable physical evidence: warehouses full of the victims clothing, shorn hair, eyeglasses, childrens toys, valuables, even gold teeth! The world reeled in revulsion at the sight of thousands upon thousands of emaciated bodies that had not been burned or buried in the Nazis final orgy of murder before the complete collapse of their machinery of death and destruction. Yet the government of Great Britain continued its policy of forbidding Jewish immigration to Palestine locking the gates even to the remnants of the gas chambers. Completely ignoring British and American public opinion, the British Foreign Office not only did not facilitate the movement of the survivors to the shore of their "national home," but actually imposed a blockade on those shores, stopping "illegal" immigration and removing the wretched refugees to new concentration camps which they had set up on the island of Cyprus. In 1947, they went so far as to force one shipload back to the cursed shores of Germany!
This was too much for the Palestinian Jews they began an underground battle to remove the British from the country. At first, the British acted as though Palestine was a colony, depriving Jews of all civil rights, arresting masses of people without due process, exiling many to prisoner camps in Africa. World public opinion was against them, though, and the war had left Britain too exhausted to fight a prolonged public-opinion battle. Soon after the creation of the United Nations and its accreditation as the heir of the League of Nations, the British put the issue of Palestine before the new world body.
The United Nations appointed a Special Committee on Palestine, made up of representatives of Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The committee held hearings, first in New York and later in Palestine itself. It had a chance to see firsthand the Mandatory governments treatment of Arabs, Jews and European survivors. After months of investigation, they presented to the General Assembly a plan for the partition of Palestine into two states a Jewish state and an Arab state, more or less along demographic lines, which meant that the area where most of the Jews lived was to become a Jewish state, and the area where most of the Arabs lived was to become an Arab state. The partition plan "cut the cake" approximately in half, giving both Jews and Arabs about 5,000 square miles of land area. The plan totally ignored the fact that the Arabs had already received an "Arab state" namely Trans-Jordan, occupying four-fifths of the original League of Nations mandate for the Jewish homeland! Furthermore, the proposed boundary between the Arab and the Jewish states was a serpentine line that would have been impossible to guard and/or protect. Only two nations living in total peace and harmony could share such boundaries. Nonetheless, the Jews of Eretz Yisrael, and their supporters in the world Zionist organization, were willing to accept this proposal of the United Nations. After all, they reasoned, the important thing was not area but sovereignty!
The charter of the United Nations reads as follows: "WE, THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS, DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, AND FOR THESE ENDS to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors..." "...[Article 1] The purposes of the United Nations are: 1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression..."
On Nov. 29, 1947, the Palestine Partition Plan came to a vote before the General Assembly of the U.N., which included among its members six Arab Nations: Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia and Yemen. The plan was voted on and received more than the two-thirds majority needed to pass: Thirty-three nations voted for the plan, and thirteen voted against it (33-13), while ten (10) abstained and one member was absent.
Naturally, the Arabs opposed the plan -- but what happened next was in direct contradiction (and violation) of the charter of the U.N.: the six Arab nations informed the U.N. that they will go to war to prevent the execution of the partition plan and the creation of a Jewish state!
I vividly recall the night of November 29th, 1947, and the fateful events of the U.N. vote taking place so far away from where I was. It was close to midnight in Jerusalem, and my family was huddled around a shortwave radio listening to the U.N. broadcasting station. We kept score as the votes were announced, and as the president of the Assembly called the delegates to order at the end of the voting we quickly made the tally. Thirty-three to 13! We won! My parents, my sister and I, and most of the other Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem rushed into the streets, and celebrated into the small hours of the morning with square dancing and singing in the city streets.
We were high with our success in the court of the nations, with the approval we had received. We did not notice, we failed to realize, that our Arab neighbors were not celebrating with us! After all, the United Nations Partition Resolution called for the establishment of two states -- one Jewish and one Arab! Where were our neighbors, the Palestinian Arabs?
Around three o'clock in the morning, I saw a friend with whom I participated in the activities of the Hagannah youth movement (the Jewish Defense organization, which the British outlawed!) and he bade me go to headquarters. When I arrived there, some 15 minutes later, I found no signs of jubilation there were anxious smiles on peoples faces. One of the young "commanders" spoke to us briefly: "Get some sleep, fellows. Tomorrow, the celebration will be over, and I fear the Arabs will have another form of celebration in mind for us!" His words turned out to be prophetic.
Go on to Part 2