Jews, Arabs, and Eretz Israel An Historical Perspective

Fact Paper 26

© Samuel Kurinsky, all rights reserved

The Palestine Mandate as it was granted in 1920 to Great Britain at the San Remo conference. It incorporated the terms of the Balfour Declaration, included the territory east and west of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, and was designated "Palestine." The entire mandated territory had been established by international mandate as a "Jewish National Home.í The United States declared at that time "...that it will be the policy of the League of Nations to recognize Palestine as a Jewish state as soon as it is a state in fact... England, as mandatory, can be relied upon to give the Jews the privileged position they should have without sacrificing the rights of non-Jews." The eastern portion of the mandated territory from the Red Sea up to the Sea of Galilee was separated by Great Britain from "Palestine" in 1921-22 and bestowed upon the Emir Abdullah as "Transjordan." The territory east and north of the Sea of Galilee (now known as the Golan Heights), was ceded by Great Britain in 1923 to the Syrian French Mandate.

The Arab Historical Claim to Israel

The geopolitical drama being played out in Israel is based partly around the question of ancestral rights, and partly around recent history. If an argument is to be made as to which people have the more ancient roots in the Land of Israel, it would not favor the so-called "Palestinians." We use the adjective "so-called" pointedly because no such ethnic entity exists. The term is purely a political designation.

The use of the word, "Palestine" is a tendentious anachronism. It has egregious political overtones, insofar as it implies that the "Palestinians," and not the Jews, are the legitimate inheritors of Eretz Israel, the Land of Israel. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The word, "Palestine" is not Arabic! It is a Roman corruption of "Philistine," a Mediterranean island people who came to the southeast coast of Canaan from the opposite direction as did the "Palestinians." They were a sea people, whereas the progenitors of the "Palestinians," were nomadic desert tribesman who arrived two thousand years later.

The Philistines first appeared on the shores of Canaan in the thirteenth century BCE, during the same period in which hundreds of Israelite villages were being established atop the hills of Canaan. "From the middle of the twelfth to the end of the eleventh century, [the Israelites] fought with the Philistines for the political and cultural domination of the country... From the early tenth century on.. [the Philistines] gradually lost their cultural distinctiveness and merged with the Canaanite population."1

The Philistines were illiterate, so we do not know what language they spoke. It was definitely not Arabic!

The holy language of the Jews is Hebrew, a language of Canaanite origin. The ancestral tongue of the Jews was Aramaic, a Semitic language, whose roots lie in Arameia, the region from which the Bible tells us that the tribe of Abraham originated. The Bible informs us that when Abraham arrived in Canaan he "assumed the tongue of Canaan." Linguists confirm that etymology. The philological transformation to Hebrew took place 2500 years before the Arabs invaded the area. Judah became a nation about 1000 BCE, over 1700 years before the Arab incursion.

The native tongue of the "Palestinians" is Arabic, an import from Arabia.

Complicity of the Scientific Community

The word "Palestine" derives from "Provincia Syro-Palestina," a name coined by the Romans in 135 CE after crushing the Bar-Khochba revolt. The renaming was part of Romeís campaign to obliterate the state of Judah from between Syria and Philistia.

The scientific community, to its shame, legitimized the obfuscating use of "Palestine" for pre-Roman Israel and Judah. Artifacts produced in Israel and Judah as far back as 1000 BCE are labeled "Syro-Palestinian," or simply "Syrian or "Palestinian," in crass disregard of the fact that such entities did not exist at the time.

It is a remarkable fact that objects are rarely to be found in museums labeled "Israelite" or "Judahite" notwithstanding that Israel and Judah were sovereign nations over many centuries. Judah endured as a sovereign nation for over five hundred years, twice as long as did the United States of America! From its inception about 1000 BCE to the time the Babylonians occupied the country Judah had all the attributes of a nation and of a culture. For five centuries Judah had its own language, territory, culture, and government. Judah retained its national and cultural identity for an additional seven hundred years under Assyrian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman domination. Each conqueror recognized and dealt with Judah as a nation under their rule. Judah was thus a continuous national and cultural entity for twelve hundred years, five centuries of which it was independent and sovereign. Few other nations can match that twelve-century-long history.

A clamor erupts from some scientific quarters as soon as the question of labeling products made in Judah as "Judahite" is raised. We are told that applying Judahite labels to objects made in Judah is being too ethnic! The Judahites, it would seem, never made a pot to piss in!

Such censure comes from scholars who have spent their lives extolling the cultural accomplishments of the Greeks, or the Romans, or the Philistines, or the Phoenicians, or the Nabateans, or the Edomites. The very scholars who reject the use of Judaic labels as being too ethnic tendentiously justify the use of "Palestinian" as an ethnic or cultural appellation.

We look for parallels in the treatment of other cultures of the very region renamed "Syro-Palestinian" by the Romans, and find none. The products of other peoples occupying portions of the regions are never referred to as "Syro-Palestinian." Edomite products are consistently labeled "Edomite." Nabatean, Phoenician, Philistine, and other cultures of the region and time are universally credited with their products in museums and scientific literature. Yet none of these cultures endured in that area anywhere near as long as did the Jews.

The Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans and other occupiers of Eretz Israel (until the British came along) commonly referred to the region and to the culture as "Judaic." In 301 CE, for example, Diocletian issued a decree fixing prices throughout the Empire. Glassware made in Judah (then officially "Syro-Palestine) was listed in his decree as vitri Ijudaici (Judaic glass), almost two centuries after the Romans had renamed Judah.

The anachronistic term "Syro-Palestinian," and the even less acceptable term "Palestinian" for pre-Roman period Israelite and Judahite products prevails over scientific integrity.

The Revisionist Rendition of History

Revisionist views on Judaic historiography made the rounds in scientific and intellectual circles. Among the positions held was that the Jews are largely descendant from the Khazars, a nomadic Asian Tatar tribe. The hidden agenda of this allegation is that the Jewish claim on Israel is tenuous because they are late interlopers into the area.

The argument effectively obfuscates Near-Eastern geopolitical issues. The allegation was voiced in 1947 in the United Nations when Sir Abdul Rahman, representative of India, opposed the partition of Palestine, arguing that Zionist claims to a homeland were invalid because it proponents were racially [sic] unqualified. The Jewís claim of returning to the land of their ancestors, Sir Rahman argued, cannot be made by people of a Turco-Finnish race who had converted to Judaism about 690 AD.2

Thus, in 1962, Al-Nashashibi Nasir al-Din penned a treatise, Tadh-karat ĎAwda ("Return Ticket"), stating baldly that such eastern European Jews as Ben-Gurion, Ben-Zwi, Dizengoff, and Sharett, were all of Khazar descent. He held that it follows that, since the Jews derive from a nation of Asian Tatars, they are nor Semites and have no inherent rights to Israel. He was followed in 1964 by Alush Naji, who repeated and expanded on the thesis in his work, Al-Masira Ila Filastin ("The Journey to Palestine").

Some Khazar/Judaic assimilation undoubtedly took place, but to extrapolate from such unions that most Jews throughout the world are their descendants is so outlandish a proposition that one wonders how intelligent persons can lend credence to it.

The revisionists ignored the recurrent movement of masses of Jews from western Europe into Russia, and those who never left Europe and had no contact with the Khazars. They ignored the Sephardim of Spain, North Africa, Italy and Europe. They ignored the Ethiopian, Alexandrian, an Yemenite Jews.. They ignored the Jews of Judah itself, Jews who survived the Roman purge and enslavement, and whose descendants were continuously resident in the Land of Israel to the present day.

They ignored all the references to Jews in Pre-Khazar classical and, indeed, in Islamic literature. They ignored the anti-Semitic fulminations of (Roman) Tacitus and (Graeco-Egyptian) Manetho, who lamented over the influence of the Jews many centuries before the Khazars came into the scene. They ignored the testimony about the Jews in both the Old and the New Testaments, as well as in the Koran itself!

Archaeologists confirm, after all, that hundreds of Israelite villages arose atop the hills of Canaan one thousand eight hundred years before the Khazars swept into the steppes of Russia from Asia. The only dispute in archaeological circles is about how the Israelites got there, not about their existence.

An Arab Myth

The Arab claim to Jerusalem is based on their declaration that it is one of their ancestral holy cities. The claim is based on the tenuous grounds of a myth that even many Islamic scholars find untenable.

At an early period in Mohammedís life, when he was courting Jewish support, Mohammed exhorted his followers to practice the fast of Yom Kippur and face ĎThe Holy City of the Jews" at prayer. Thus Mohammed himself recognized the Judaic holy status of Jerusalem.

Mecca, the site of the Kaíba stone, was then a holy city of Pagan idolaters. Mohammed inveighed against Meccan superstitions, entreating his followers to lead a pious life, and to believe in an indivisible, all-powerful, all-mighty, all-wise, all-just, but merciful Judaic God. He claimed that God had chosen him as prophet as he had chosen the prophets of the Bible before him. By following his precepts, Mohammed proclaimed, believers would escape the punishments of (Christian) hell and inherit everlasting life.

The Meccans, to preserve the sacredness of their city, arose in fierce opposition. Mohammedís adherents fled to the Judaic city of Yathrib, and were given refuge. Mohammed followed them to Yathrib to continue his prophesy. There Mohammed was firmly rejected as a prophet by the Jews. He became their bitter adversary.

Claiming to have received Godís permission to make war upon the enemies of Islam, Mohammed warred against the Meccans. After bloody campaigns, he succeeded in making himself recognized by the Meccans as chief and prophet. He then turned his attention to the Jews of Yathrib. He massacred hundreds of Jews of the cityís three Judaic tribes. He buried 800 Jews in the central square, and subjugated the rest to his rule and taxation.

Mohammed made Yathrib his residence. The city was renamed Madinet al Nabi, "The Prophetís City," shortened thereafter to Medina. The first mosque was erected at Quba in the Medina oasis. Mohammed designated Mecca as the Moslem cynosure, and issued a proclamation prohibiting the facing of Jerusalem at prayer.

Another "Mosque of the two Kiblas" was situated at Ruma, validating the change of the prayer direction from Jerusalem to Mecca. In 632 Mohammed made his final pilgrimage to Mecca, constituting his definitive rejection of Jerusalem as a holy site.

Here the facts end and the myth begins. The posthumous claim to Jerusalem was concocted on the basis of a vision Mohammed claimed to have had about the year 620, which fulfilled the Koranís statement (Sura 17:1): "Glory be to Him who has made his servant go by night from the Sacred Mosque to the remotest Mosque."

All Islamic scholars agree that Kaíba is the "Sacred Mosque." The difference of opinion relates to the identity of the "Remotest Mosque." Early Arab scholars maintained that Mohammed was dreaming of a sojourn in heaven. Other scholars, emphasizing that there was no mosque at the time in Jerusalem, hold that the reference was to the mosque at Medina, the first to be erected, and until after Mohammedís death, the remotest from Mecca.

Most of these Islamic scholars presume that his journey was merely a dream or a vision, a position reinforced by the testimony of Mohammedís young second wife, Ayesha. She avowed that on that night Mohammed had not left her bed. "He was sleeping soundly by her side."

A new tradition was then created, holding that Mohammed actually flew on a horse with a human face named Burak, first to pray at Mount Sinai and Bethlehem, and finally to the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. After tethering Burak, Mohammed entered the Holy of Holies, where he joined Abraham, Moses and Jesus in prayer. A ladder then descended to carry Mohammed to Godís House in the Seventh Heaven, where he was embraced by God himself. The ladder then returned him to Burak in Jerusalem, who flew him back to Mecca. Moslems point to a footprint presumably left by Burak when Mohammed leaped to his back for his return to Mecca.

The designation as Jerusalem as an Arab/Islamic holy site has no other claim to legitimacy!

The name of Jerusalem is absent from the Koran, whereas it appears almost a thousand times in the Bible. The el-Agsa mosque on Jerusalemís Temple Mount was originally a Byzantine church.

One need hardly go through the exercise of documenting the Jewish claim to Shalem, "The City of Peace," as the name first appears in the Bible. It was Abraham who called it Yireh (God sees), and thus the remote hilltop village became known as Yerushalayim. Its Judaic history goes back to 1800 years before Mohammed was born. Suffice it to mention the Holy City as the site of the First and Second Temples and point to the massive documentation of its Judaic status in a book accepted by the Moslems themselves as the Bible.

The Absent Arabs of Ancient Judah

Jews returned to Jerusalem soon after the Romans expelled them in the second century of the Common Era. The Jewish population burgeoned in Eretz Israel. Agriculture and industries flourished. Up to two million Jews resided in the region spanning Israel and Babylonia. In Sassanian Babylonia (Persia) great Judaic academies accommodated thousands of students from Eretz Israel and from throughout the Diaspora. The Persian Jews, after pioneering the "Silk Route" across Asia in the fifth century BCE, carried on a substantial intercontinental trade and the Jews of the Holy Land were active as middle men for trade with the West.

The Mishnah records this activity. Many of the Jewish sages made their living trading products from the East such as silk and spices for linens, glassware, and other products made in Eretz Israel. Babylonia hosted over a million Jews, and the Holy Land supported several million Jews and Byzantine Christians.

Until the Land of Israel was conquered by the Arabs in the year 640, only a few Bedouin Arabs resided in the southern desert now occupied by Israel. None were to be found in the so-called "West Bank" and the "Golan." The Arab forces confiscated all the land in Eretz Israel. Christians and Jews alike worked as serfs to the new landlords.

Booty and taxes, not artisanship is the goal to which conquerors aspire. The Arab overlords would never deign to dirty their hands with the soil of the Holy Land, nor grow callouses from manual labor of any kind. The hierarchy was Arab, but few Arabs could then be found working land, weaving at looms, or tending forges.

"A vast complex of lands and people had been united under Moslem rule... Jewish craftsmen were plentiful in the cities and made up a large part of the Jewish population. In fact, it appears that the economic class had existed as early as the end of the classical period. A hostile Moslem writer went so far as to claim that Ďamong the Jews one finds only dyers, tanners, blood-letters (i.e., barbers and surgeons), butchers and waterskin repairers." However, he was referring to only those occupations to which he wished to draw attention. More objective sources also mention Jewish blacksmiths, gold and silversmiths, harness-makers, and shoemakers, some of which were itinerant craftsmen working in Moslem villages.""{Almost all the Jewish people lived in the area conquered [by the Arab forces] between 632 and 711; more than 90% of Jewry now lived within a single Empire... The new rulers, who were mostly former nomads from the arid lands of Arabia, ruined the agriculture of Babylonia by taxing according to area, instead of yield, and by neglecting the irrigation network during the early years of the conquest."

"Every city had Jewish shop-keepers, who dealt in everything that came to market... This large-scale Jewish trade was in part intercontinental, reaching across the Mediterranean and the oceans. They were also to be found in what is now termed the free professions - as physicians, astronomers, translators and the like."3

Throughout this period the Arab population of Eretz Israel consisted mainly of the overlords, their families and those of the retinue of guards, soldiers and tax-collectors. But a large portion of the indigenous population under Arab rule converted to Islam, with the notable exception of most Jews and some Christians.

In the tenth century, Eretz Israel, and especially Jerusalem, became host to a large number of Karaite immigrants, the first Judaic Zionists. According to the Karaites, the individual is bound to rely on his own intelligence and to understand the scriptures independently.

"Jerusalem became the focal point of these sectarian tendencies. Karaite thinkers of ascetic, individualistic, and rationalist orientation gathered there from all the Islamic countries, united as Avelei, Zion ('Mourners of Zion') or Shoshanim ("Roses"), as their admirers called them."4

The invading Crusaders took the place of the Islamic overlords, further draining the land of its resources. The Jews and the land suffered even more as they were caught in the line of fire between the Crusaders and the aggressive forces under Saladin (of Kurdish origin). Soon thereafter the Mongolian invasion of 1260 left the land waste and its cities in ruins. Jerusalem suffered most of all.

"Everywhere was the wrack of demolished dwellings, the city was depopulated." In the house of two Jewish brothers, dyers by trade, ten men assembled on the Sabbath. Those Jews who had not been slain by the Tartars, fled to Shechem (Nablus), taking the sacred scrolls with them. The scared writings were fetched back by Moses ben-Nahman (Nahmanides), formerly the chief Rabbi of Gerona, a great Judaic academic center in Spain. Nahmanides made his home in Eretz Israel. He had been exiled from Spain because he had demolished the arguments of Dominican scholars arrayed against him in disputations ordered by King James.

The Judaic community of Jerusalem was reconstituted. "One of the demolished residences, with marble columns and a beautiful cupola, was repaired and made into a synagogue for the benefit of the many pilgrims from Damascus, Aleppo, and elsewhere... In addition Nahmani opened a school for Talmudic studies, which attracted young students from beyond the Euphrates."5

During the 2000 years of the Common Era, the Jews of the Holy Land were not confined to the portion later consigned to the Jews by the partition into Jordan and Israel under the British mandate. What is now referred to as the "Golan" and the western part of Jordan, always had been part of Eretz Israel.

Benjamin of Tudela reported in the twelfth century that three thousand families resided in Damascus.6 That figure was likewise reported by another intrepid Jewish traveler of the times, Petachia of Regensburg, who wrote, "There are about 10,000 Jews there, who have a prince."7 Sizable Judaic populations were also observed throughout Mesopotamia and Lower Egypt.

Eretz Israel has always been a homeland in which oppressed Jews could find refuge. After the massacres of 1391 in Spain, "Jews left Spain for Erez Israel throughout the century."8

When the Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal, many Jews fled to the East, "In 1515 the Ottoman Empire gained control of Erez Israel; in 1517 Egypt was conquered. Thus regions populated by Jews, and the land to which Jews had always aspired, were incorporated into the larger framework of an Empire."9

Eretz Israel "became a lodestone for Marranos to repent and return to their former faith. The chronicler R. Elijah Capsali, a contemporary of the expulsion and a member of the Jewish population in the Ottoman Empire, relates that during the period after 1497 "there came [to the Ottoman Empire} thousands and myriads of the expelled Jews so that the county was filled with them."10

The kabbalist R. Hayyim in his Sefer Hahexyonot (Book of Visions) wrote: "Those Jews who arrived with the early stream of settlers, including craftsmen and traders, continued to engage in their previous occupations. A member of the generation of the expulsion 'who dwells in the Holy City of Jerusalem, Samuel ben Joseph Pijo... calls upon people to join them: 'whoever wishes to come, let them come, for here they can spend their entire lives supporting themselves by their handicrafts. And these are the crafts which are suitable - goldsmith and silversmith, tailor and sewer, carpenter, harness-maker, weaver and blacksmith, while as for buying and selling - every one who the Lord has graced with a little money. And also to tell the truth, everybody who knows how to study will find a sufficiency here for.. I who have no craft except my studies obtain my needs through studying Torah."11

"During the 1520's the traveler Moses Bassola found in Jerusalem 'about three hundred householders [1000-1500 persons]' and 'about five hundred widows who had a special status' and 'more than two hundred souls recipient of charity.' In 1650 a Jew from Prague noted that in Jerusalem 'Sephardi Jews had dwellings and shops... and among them are many craftsmen."12

What was true of Jerusalem was even more true of Safed, a city populated entirely by Jews, as were many of the villages around the city. "In 1522 more than 300 householders are spoken of in Safed. By the middle of the sixteenth century, travelers already reported the presence of 8 - 10,000 Jews in Safed - most of them Sephardim. By the early seventeenth century there were some 20.000 Jews in the city, and, according to some authorities the number even reached 30,000."13

Many of the villages around Safed lay in what has recently been designated the "West Bank," the "Golan Heights," and "Lebanon." "Moses Bassola... stressed the trade between Safed, Damascus and Beirut. He was also impressed by the Jewish hawkers and peddlers in the surrounding villages and the opportunities for craftsmen. He thought that [for Jews], 'in general this countryside is more commercial than Italy.' The scholars also had ties with the agricultural environment, which we learn from the story of a Rabbi Moses, against whom the complaint was lodged that he was not always engaged in the study of Torah. For he goes out Ďto the villages to bring in the honey of his bees... and his new wine and his grain.í"14

A significant textile industry flourished in Safed, and the sages of the city also engaged in international trade. R. Jacob Berab, for example, "was a wealthy dealer in spices, whose transactions involved great sums of money; even the sainted Isaac Luria dealt in pepper and other wares... In 1535 an Italian Jew was impressed enough to note 'that as in Italy improvements are being made and new plantations planted and th community is growing every day. So it is in this city. Anyone who saw Safed ten years ago and sees her now must marvel. For Jews are coming plentifully all the time and the garment-making industry is increasing every day.'15

During the sixteenth century the renowned Jewess Dona Gracia and her nephew Don Joseph Nasi financed the development of Tiberius. In 1561 a traveler said that the Jewish community in Tiberius regarded Dona Gracia as their patroness. A document states "A Jewess named Gracia has undertaken [to pay] a fixed annual sum of one thousand gold pieces [as rent for Tiberius], together with several small villages around it." The document refers to the physician David, who is in charge of these matters on behalf of the aforementioned Gracia Nasi."

"... The chronicler Joseph Hacohen recorded that, in Tiberius, Don Joseph Nasi appointed "his attendant Joseph ben Adret to build up the cityís walls. The construction of the walls was completed in 1565. Don Joseph gave orders to plant a vast number of mulberry trees to feed the silkworms, and he also commanded wool to be brought from Spain to make garments [in Tiberius] like the garments which are made in Venice."16 [see Fact Paper 15, Silkmaking and the Jews]

Recurrent period of Jewish settlement into the Holy Land continued into the twentieth century. Some immigrant groups, such as those in Safed and Tiberius, successfully established themselves, and others dissolved, but all left their imprint on and descendants in the land.

In vivid contrast, outside of the enclaves of Judaic settlement, the land occupied by the Arabs and others was desolate. "In 1590 a 'simple English visitor to Jerusalem wrote: 'Nothing here to be scene but a little of the old walls, which is yet remayning, and all the rest is grasse, mosse and weedes much like a piece of rank or moist grounde."17

"While Tiberius was being settled by Jews from Papal states... Nazareth [a Christian enclave] continued to decline." A Franciscan pilgrim translated a Latin manuscript that reported that "It is a lamentable thing to see thus such a town. We saw nothing more stony, full of thorns and desert.í18 A hundred years afterward, Nazareth was, in 1697, 'an inconsiderable village... Acre a few cottages... nothing here but a vast and spacious ruin.' Nablus consisted of but two streets with many people, and Jericho was a 'poor nasty village.'19

Joan Peters, in her comprehensive work, From Time Immemorial, goes on to quote a lengthy series of dignitaries and travelers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, all lamenting the dismal and desolate condition of the land adjoining the Judaic enclaves in the Holy Land.

Dr. C. Voss, a clergyman, and, in 1953, Chairman of the American Christian Palestine Committee, concluded that "between the Arab conquest... and the... Jewish return in the 1880's. Palestine was laid waste... Its ancient canals and irrigation systems were destroyed, and the wondrous fertility... vanished into desert and desolation... Under the Ottoman Empire of the Turks, the policy of disfoliation continued, the hillsides were denuded of trees and the valleys robbed of their topsoil."20

The British Consul reported in 1857 that "The country is in considerable degree empty... and therefore its greatest need is that of a body of population..."21

Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in 1867. "There is not a solitary village (throughout the Valley of Jezreel)... not for 30 miles in either direction... Nazareth is forlorn... Jericho the accursed lies a mouldering ruin today... Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes, desolate."22

Desolate is the description likewise applied to Palestine in nineteenth century encyclopedias. A German encyclopedia, for example, published in 1837, depicted Palestine as "desolate and roamed through by Arab gangs of robbers."23

In the mid-nineteen-thirties, Henry Wallace, then the U.S. Secretary of agriculture, sent the soil expert Dr. Walter Lowdermilk on a fact-finding mission to the Middle East to learn why a land where great agricultural civilizations once existed degenerated into desolation. Lowdermilk returned an enthusiastic Zionist, not for political reasons, but as a lover of the soil. After visiting Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Transjordan and North African countries, he observed that only the Zionists were devoted to the restoration of the soil.

Lowdermilk suggested that the Arabs should not be called "sons of the desert" but rather "fathers of the desert," for they were the ones who created desert conditions in a fertile country.

At the end of the nineteenth century, despite the claims of hundreds of thousands of Arab refugees to ancestral rights, the total Arab population of the entire Holy Land was no more than 300,000,24 a number less than half of those who are presently citizens of Israel!

An increase in Arab population began to take place at the beginning of the twentieth century. The influx of Arabs was a direct consequence of the activity of the Zionists who began to settle into and develop the land in the 1880's. The Jewish pioneers bought up swampy, desolate or desert land and proceeded under horrendous difficulties to restore it to productivity. The increase in the Arab population was directly proportional to the Zionistís success in their endeavor " to make the swamps fruitful and the desert bloom."

New employment opportunities brought Arabs from Syria, Egypt, and even Saudi Arabia all underdeveloped lands. Thus, a major proportion of the 1948 Arab population of Israel is attributable to the backbreaking endeavors of the Zionists.

British government statistics substantiate the dramatic increase of Arab population in the new Jewish areas, an increase in sharp contrast to the relatively static number of Arabs in the non-Jewish areas,

In addition, the population statistics between 1893 and 1948 regarding the Arab presence are deceiving. All non-Jews are registered in one category and Jews in another. Thus Christians, Pagans, and Jews who did not declare their religion are registered as Arab! The Jewish population just prior to World War I nonetheless numbered in the skewed census as 85,000.

Under the British, Arab immigration was encouraged and Jewish immigration curtailed. Only 12,000 entry permits for Jews were allowed. The Jews who had escaped the Nazi death camps were forced to return to the charnal houses because entry permits had to be acquired in advance - evidently the Jews were to apply at the nearest gestapo headquarters! When Jewish leaders begged the British to forego "legal" entry permits and deduct the numbers from the allowable total of 12,000, the requests were denied.

The British did not merely encourage Arab immigration; They imported Arabs from other Arab countries! Clearly a large number of those who now claim "Palestinian" rights in Israel were among these immigrants and most others stem from Arabs who arrived after the Zionists had created a viable economy.

The C.I.A.ís Creation of the West Bank

A prime example of how misrepresentations can affect history is the use of the misnomer "West Bank," in reference to Samaria and Judah. The main issue to be resolved for the attainment of peace in Israel is the status of Jerusalem and the areas designated as the "West Bank."

The area on the west bank of the Jordan River should properly convey only a geographical, not a political connotation. The politicalization of the term was generated in 1971 by the U. S. State Department and the C.I.A. It was then that a mysterious agency, the "U.S. Board of Geographic names," approved the term "West Bank" for official U.S. Government usage as an area separate from Israel.

Until then, the term had never appeared on any map of the region. The fact is that after the cease fire in the 1948-49 war of the Arabs against the officially recognized State of Israel, the invader, Jordan, became the occupier of 2200 square miles of Israel's territory. Jordan's occupation was not recognized by the United States. In1967, Jordan was evicted from the occupied territory, that is, Israel's territory occupied by Jordan!

After the unilateral designation in 1971 of the area as the "West Bank" by the "U.S. Board of Geographical Names," and despite the fact that Jordan's occupation remained unrecognized, the State Department issued maps which included the area as part of Jordan!

Then in 1983, the C.I.A. produced two maps for the Map and Geography Room of the Library of Congress. One map is entitled "West Bank Population, 1967." The other, rendered in vivid color, is entitled "West Bank and Vicinity" and shows Jewish settlements in the area.

In 1984, a retired Treasury Department employee, Martin Miller, launched a campaign to persuade the State Department and the C.I.A. to correct publications showing Judah and Samaria as a "West Bank" part of Jordan. His search for the elusive "U.S. Board of Geographical Names" led him to Dr. Richard R. Randall, Executive Secretary of the board, and an employee of the Department of Defense. Randall searched for the origin of the name's application and found that it began at the behest of the State Department, which submitted a note to be filed with the minutes of the board for February 25, 1972. The note specified that the area occupied by Jordan west of the Jordan River be named the "West Bank." This was a gross departure from standard U.S. mapping practice. The agency itself declares that "in no case does it play a role in selecting names in foreign areas."

Until then, the area had always been designated as part of Samaria and Judea. Those names were used by the C.I.A itself on the two maps cited above, as a reference as to where the "West Bank" was located!

Martin Miller was named by the Newspaper Jewish Week as the "unsung Hero of 1985." The "West Bank" ceased thereafter to be designated as part of Jordan, but the term assumed a new political life as a Palestinian entity. Other countries and the media were quick to pick up the misnomer with all its innuendos. The State Department and the C.I.A. had established "a fact on the ground."

Israeli negotiators thereafter were constrained to deal with the distorted history of the region as if it were reality.


Note: A masterful work on the subject was authored by Joan Peters, detailing a wealth of factual material and references, much of which has been quoted here. We obtained her book, From Time Immemorial, from Jonathan David Publishers [(718) 456-8611]

An extensive review of and bibliography on the Jews and the Khazars, the Judaic presence in Sassanian Babylonia, and the pioneering of the Silk Route by Persian Jews can be found in The Glassmakers; An Odyssey of the Jews, chs. 8,9 and 10.

  1. Trudy Dothan, The Philistines and Their Material Culture, Yale Un. Press, 1982,
  2. United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, Report to the General Assembly, vol 2, 1947
  3. H. H. Ben-Sasson, ed., A History of the Jewish People, Harvard Un. Press 1976, 393, 395, 396.
  4. Ben-Sasson, ibid., 449.
  5. Max L. Margolis and Alexander Marx, A History of the Jewish People, The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1927, 426-7.
  6. The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, ed. E.N. Daler, Oxford, 1907, 30.
  7. The Itinerary of Petachia, ed. E. N. Adler, 85.
  8. Ben-Sasson, ibid., 629.
  9. Ben-Sasson, ibid., 663/
  10. Ben-Sasson, ibid., 634, quoting R. Gottheil and W. Worrell, Fragments from the Cairo Geniza, NY 1927, 257.
  11. A Yaari, ed. Travelers and Tales from Erez Israel (Hebrew) Tel Aviv, 1946, 184.
  12. Yaari, Ibid., 149, 283.
  13. Ben-Sasson, ibid., 635.
  14. Ben-Sasson, ibid., quoting R. Gottheil and W. Worrell, Fragments from the Cairo Geniza, NY 1927,257
  15. Yaari, ibid., 184.
  16. Ben-Sasson, ibid., quoting Emekh Habakhah Chronicle, M. Letteris, ed., Cracow, 1985, 145-7.
  17. Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, Harper and Row, 1984, 147, quoting from Gunner Edward Webe, Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Statement, appearing in De Haas, History, 338.
  18. Peters, ibid., 158, quoting De Haas, as in 17 above, 157
  19. Peters, ibid., 158, quoting Henry Maundrell, The Journal of Henry Maundrell from Aleppo to Jerusalem, 1697, Bohnís edition, London 1948, 447,428, 450 respectively.
  20. Peters, ibid., quoting from Dr. D.C. Voss, The Palestine Problem Today, Israel and its Neighbors, Boston, 1953, 13
  21. Peters, ibid., 159
  22. Peters, ibid, 159-60.
  23. Peters, ibid., 158.
  24. David Landes, "Palestine Before the Zionists," Commentary, Feb. 1076, 48,9.