Letter From Israel
by Letter From Israel
Sunday, Apr. 12, 2009 at 11:49 AM
From the Village Voice!!!
Letter From Israel
by Sylvana Foa
A Short Take on a Long History
Have you heard the one about Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and
Chairman Yasir Arafat finally sitting down to negotiate? Sharon
opened with a "biblical" tale.
"Before the Israelites came to the Promised Land and
settled here, Moses led them for 40 years through the desert. One day,
miraculously, a stream appeared. They drank and then decided to bathe. When
Moses came out of the water, he found all his clothes missing.
" 'Who took my clothes?' Moses asked. 'It was the
Palestinians,' replied the Israelites."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Arafat. "There
were no Palestinians during the time of Moses!"
"All right," smirked Sharon,
"now that we've got that settled, let's start talking."
"If the lie is big enough and told often enough, it
will be believed," Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels once said. What
worked for Goebbels evidently is also working for Arafat.
The blatant lies and vicious propaganda emanating from the
Arab world have gotten out of hand. Anti-Semitism is out of the closet. Jews
are murdered in Canada, their graves
are desecrated in Italy.
It's time to sort through the spiteful drivel.
No, Charlie, despite what you read on a zillion Arab Web
sites, Jews do not use the blood of Arab children to bake their holiday bread.
Yes, Harriet, the Jewish Temple did exist in Jerusalem.
I know Arafat insists it didn't and his excavators are busy destroying all
archaeological record of it. But next time you visit Rome,
go check out the Forum and you'll find its story carved in the ancient stone of
Titus's arch. Let's start at the beginning.
First, who really owns the land encompassing what is now Jordan,
Israel, and the
Palestinian Authority? The answer is so well documented it could be the subject
of future UN resolutions—the Canaanites. They established the Land
of Canaan here around 2000 B.C., so
they have first dibs. Unfortunately for them, there isn't a single Canaanite
left on earth.
Abraham, the Father of the Jews and a figure revered by
Islam, led a band of Hebrews from Mesopotamia and began the conquest of Canaan
in 1741 B.C.—that's 3743 years ago. Those first Israelites were joined in about
1290 B.C. by the Jewish slaves led out of Egypt
After many years and a lot of help from Joshua, the
Israelites finally defeated the Canaanites and old King Saul united the country
in 1100 B.C. King David added Jerusalem in 1000 B.C., and King Solomon built
the First Temple around 956 B.C. The land was plagued by raiders like those
guys dubbed the Philistines, "Sea Invaders," who came out of the Aegean
and snatched a nice chunk of the coast. Remember Goliath? He was a Philistine
and King David made mincemeat of him, but the Philistines were a nuisance for
Big trouble loomed in 586 B.C. when the Babylonians (nasty
ancestors of the nasty Iraqis) invaded under King Nebuchadnezzar II. They
sacked the lavish city Solomon had built in Jerusalem and
tore down the First Temple.
The Babylonians rounded up all the Jews they could catch and deported them to Babylonia
as slaves. That "Babylonian Exile" lasted a mere 50 years and the
Jews returned to build the Second Temple.
For the next 1000 years, everyone and his brother grabbed a
piece of the territory—Persians, Greeks, and Romans. The Roman reign was
particularly benevolent. They destroyed the Second
Temple in 70 A.D. and killed an
estimated 1.1 million disobedient Jews, including one named Jesus. The Romans
also maliciously renamed the area Palaestina, after the Jews' old enemy, the
Philistines. The Christian Byzantine Empire took over in 300 A.D. and held on
for more than 300 years. During that era, the Muslim Prophet Muhammad was born
in Mecca in 570 A.D.
Muhammad's followers believed in conversion, big time, and
swarmed around the Middle East giving everyone a fair
choice—become a Muslim or die. These Arabs stormed Palestine
in 638 A.D. Do the math. The Arabs got to the region 2379 years after the Jews.
So, who is occupying whom??
The Arabs considered Palestine
unimportant and ruled from Damascus and Baghdad.
You could call them benign except for the massacres and the fact that they were
uncomfortable with trees . . . so they cut them all down, turning the once
fertile region into a more familiar desert.
With all the hoopla about Jerusalem,
check out the Muslim holy book, the Koran. The Koran mentions Mecca
and Medina countless times but never once speaks of Jerusalem.
On the other hand, there are 811 references to Jerusalem
in the Bible.
Christian Crusaders arrived from Europe
in 1099 and ousted the Arabs. In subsequent years, the land switched back and
forth between invaders, and in the turmoil Jews began filtering back from their
scattered exile. Many came from Spain,
whence they were expelled in 1492.
In 1516, the non-Arab Ottoman Turks conquered Palestine
and held sway until after World War I, when the British took over.
We really have no idea how many Jews and how many Arabs
there were at the time—mainly because both groups hid from the Ottoman census
takers to avoid taxes.
But we do know that there were probably fewer than 350,000
people, the majority Arab, in the whole region (including what is now Jordan)
when Mark Twain made a pilgrimage in 1867.
In his travelogue, Innocents Abroad, Twain wrote, "One
may ride ten miles hereabouts and not see ten human beings."
"Nazareth is forlorn . . . Jericho
the accursed lies a moldering ruin today," Twain said, adding, "There
was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere."
But the population was growing. More Jews arrived from
Eastern Europe and Russia
in the 1880s, either fleeing oppression or following the Zionist dream. And
Arabs from neighboring countries flocked to jobs created by Jewish immigrants.
Take a deep breath, because now the plot thickens.
In 1917, Britain
issued the Balfour Declaration and promised "the establishment in Palestine
of a national home for the Jewish People."
The British then turned around and gave over 77 percent of Palestine
to the Arab Hashemites, for what later became Jordan.
The remaining 23 percent, west of the River Jordan, was supposedly for the
But in 1947, the UN voted to partition that 23 percent of Palestine
into Jewish and Arab states. The Israelis accepted the plan and in 1948
proclaimed the establishment of their state. Neighboring Arab nations, however,
rejected both the partition and the idea of a Jewish state and launched a
massive invasion of Israel.
They were defeated, and at the end of the 1948 war Israel
held all of Western Palestine except the West Bank, which was captured by Jordan,
and Gaza, which was seized by Egypt.
In the 1967 Six Day War, Israel
again defeated Egypt, Syria,
and Iraq, gaining control not only of Gaza
and the West Bank, but also of Egypt's
Sinai Peninsula and Syria's Golan
The big question is: Where were the calls for a Palestinian
state during the 19 years Jordan
occupied the West Bank and Egypt held Gaza?
A 1978 peace accord signed with Egypt
returned the Sinai to Cairo, but the Egyptians seemed
relieved to leave Gaza with Israel.
In 1988, King Hussein of Jordan
officially renounced all claims to the West Bank.
As far as Israelis were concerned, the land, won in a
defensive war, belonged to them.
But even after all the nauseating terror of the last 23
months, the majority of Israelis are willing to give Palestinians the West
Bank, Gaza, and half of Jerusalem
for their state. We just wonder if they are willing to let us keep ours.