The Holy Land: Who was there first?
Two thousand years before the birth of Islam, Moses led the Jews to the Holy Land, which was then inhabited by the Canaanites and the Philistines – two non-Arab peoples who no longer exist. For over 3,000 years, Jews lived in the Holy Land in either the Kingdom of Israel or Judah or Judea. Obviously then, the Arabs are the Jihaad-Johnnys-come-lately to the Holy Land.
But being early on the land does not mean the Jews have always been in control of the Holy Land. It has been invaded, occupied and controlled for periods of time by the Greeks, Maccabeans, Assyrians, Persians, Romans, Byzantines, Crusaders, Mamelukes and finally the Ottoman Turks.
The Romans were so vexed by Jewish resistance to Roman rule that they tried to obliterate Jewish history by forbidding references to Judea-Israel. For example, the Romans dishonored the Jews by renaming the Holy Land for their ancient enemies – the Philistines. Overtime, this new name was bastardized to Philistia, then to Palaistina and finally to Palestine.
After Great Britain drove the Turks out of the Holy Land during World War I, Britain was given a mandate over the geographic area called: Palestine. This proved a thankless task because the Jews and Arabs, both of whom wanted to create independent nation-states, occupied and fought over the land with the British in the middle.
In 1948, the United Nations relieved a conflict-weary Great Britain of its mandate by partitioning the Holy Land between Arabs and Jews and by creating the State of Israel. Despite overwhelming worldwide support for the creation of Israel by the United Nations, Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq launched an all-out invasion designed to cleanse the Holy Land of Jews and destroy the State of Israel. The newly formed Israel Defense Force (IDF) repelled the invasion and kicked their Arab you-know-whats -- as it had to do in 1967 and again in 1973.
After 1948, some Arabs did not want to live in Israel and tried to emigrate to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Egypt. Most were refused entry and were turned back into refugee camps in Gaza or into what is now known as the West Bank. Some Arabs did manage to leave Israel, Gaza and the West Bank; however, their “hosts” put them in refugee camps where they are still being denied the rights accorded to citizens of their “host” nations.
From the Arab point-of-view, this conscious, premeditated policy designed to create and maintain a festering political sore across the region has worked out brilliantly. This running-sore policy gave birth to terrorist groups such as: Hamas, Islamic Jihaad, Hizbollah, FATAH, PFLP, Tanzim, Force 5, the al Aqsa Brigade and the PLO.
Meanwhile, the Arabs who decided to remain inside Israel and those Arabs who live in Gaza and the West Bank and come into Israel to work, say their Jewish neighbors are “humiliating” them.
Yes, the Arab workers who must go through Israeli check points each day to get to work are given a most thorough search on a par with what we Americans are subjected to these days before we can board an airliner. Given the suicide bombers, can you blame the Israelis? Recently, this observer was given the 100-percent (shoes off) search treatment three times! But I didn’t feel humiliated, I felt safe.
Yes, it must be “humiliating” when your Jewish neighbor turns his land into a truck garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables while your land next door still looks like the Afghan desert. And here, gentle reader, is the heart of this conflict: Many Arabs think that making the desert bloom is a crime punishable by death.
Irrespective of who got there first, both Jews and Arabs should be able to live in peace in the Holy Land. But as long as the Arabs define “peace” as a world without Jews, this conflict will never be resolved until one side achieves a total victory over the other. Then, and only then, will we see peace in the Holy Land.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn – a novel about a terrorist attack on Colorado’s high country.
©2002. William Hamilton.