Guest Column: Facts, not delusions, about the Middle East

In these perilous times, many Americans apparently believe all manner of untruths about the Middle East. For example, based on what I gather from periodicals, National Public Radio and opinions expressed in personal conversations, many Americans believe that Israel simply stole or somehow swindled Palestine from indigenous Muslims. Therefore, Israel is the root cause of conflict in the Middle East.

But according to the documentary record, all land owned by Jews before 1947 was bought and paid for mostly by philanthropic Jews such as the Rothschilds. Sellers primarily were wealthy Palestinian Muslims residing in Beirut, Damascus and Cairo. One of the families that sold land was named Husseini. How ironic that Yasir Arafat had been a member of the Husseini family. Many Americans appear unaware that no people ever called themselves “Palestinians” before World War I, according to the documentary record. A nation named “Palestine” never existed in history. In 135 C.E., Israel, Judea and Samaria were renamed “Phylistia” by Rome after the latter defeated the final Jewish insurrection, called the Bar Kocheba Rebellion. Over the centuries, the word “Phylistia” transformed into “Falastin” and finally “Palestine.”

At mid-19th century, the word “Palestine” referred to a region without formal boundaries, similar to America’s Appalachia, sparsely populated according to travelers such as Mark Twain, and governed by Turkish officials in Damascus.

Who’s entitled to Palestine today? First recorded settlers were Canaanites, according to the Bible. Over the millennia, the region also was governed by Amorites, Moabites, Jebusites, Edomites, Ammonites, Hittites, Philistines, Hebrews, Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantium, Arabian Muslims, Turkish Muslims, the British under the Palestinian Mandate and finally the U.N.

Western historians generally agree that today’s Israel-Palestine tragedy began after World War I, when Britain acquired the “Palestine Mandate” from Turkey. First, Britain sliced off around 80 percent and awarded it to Arabian Prince Abdullah of the Hashemite tribe, who’d fought on the side of the Allies. This new nation was called Trans-Jordan, then Jordan. Its instant population comprised Palestinian Muslims governed by Arabian Hashemite aristocrats.

England planned to divide the remaining 20 percent between resident Muslims and Jews along lines of then-existing settlements. But Muslims didn’t want Jews living anywhere near them as equals.

For example, in 1929, Palestinian Muslims rampaged against their civilian, Palestinian Jewish neighbors, killing 133 and injuring 339—long before the modern state of Israel existed, before “the occupation.”

Palestinian Jews organized and fought back. The British Army became entangled in escalating guerrilla warfare between Muslims and Jews. Britain appealed to the U.N., which finally accepted responsibility for this 20 percent of the original Palestine Mandate.

U.N. officials decided the only possible solution was: (1) Follow generally the English partition plan, and (2) incorporate adjustments necessary for two viable nation-states.

Fledgling Israel immediately was attacked by holy Muslim warriors from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, as well as Palestinian Muslims, supported by Libya, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Many Palestinian Muslims became uprooted by this war that they’d helped promote and wage, but didn’t end as they’d planned.

Neighboring Muslim nations refused to absorb most homeless Palestinian Muslims. Israel refused to accept them back for security reasons. Thus began the Palestinian refugee crisis, several additional regional wars, countless guerrilla actions and the Intifada.

According to the documentary record, Palestinian Muslims consistently have refused to cut a deal and make peace, despite many offers including the Clinton-Barak peace proposals of 2000, which had been partially formulated and personally recommended to Chairman Arafat by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia. Instead, Palestinian leaders chose suicide bombing Israeli civilians and rocket bombing Israeli towns.

This extremist foreign policy has provoked retaliation such as the recent Israeli invasions of Gaza and Hezbollah. Regrettably, holy Muslim warriors take cover behind Muslim women and children, which results in more civilian casualties, who then become Jihadist bargaining chips.

Lenny Levinson is the author of 83 novels, mostly in the category of high adventure. He lived most of his life in New York, but is now a resident of Mt. Morris.

From the Sept. 6-12, 2006, issue

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